You don't have to try so hard.

November 22, 2018

We bear glad tidings for Christmas and the holiday season. After extensively observing how people respond to gifts, we have this advice for shoppers: You don’t have to try so hard.

You’re not obliged to spend hours finding just the right gift for each person on your list. Most would be just as happy with something quick and easy. This may sound too good to be true, but this is research from social scientists who are meticulous analysts of gift giving rituals according to the The New York Times.

Whether they’re drawing lessons from Kwakwaka’wakw Indian potlatches or wish lists, this year they have more data than ever to back up their advice: 

Don’t aim for the “big reveal”

Many shoppers strive to find a sensational toy or extravagant piece of jewelry that will create drama when it’s opened. But the drama is not what recipients want, according to a new study from Carnegie Mellon University, and Elanor F. Williams of Indiana University.

They have found that gifts go wrong because the givers are focused on the moment of exchange, whereas the recipients are thinking long-term: Will I actually get any use out of this? 

Don’t “over-individuate” your gifts

People too often give bad presents because they insist on buying something different for everyone.

In experiments using greeting cards and gifts, psychologists found that people typically feel obliged to choose unique items for each person on their list even when the recipients wouldn’t know if they got duplicates — and even when one particularly good gift would work better for everyone.

Don’t “over-individuate” gifts – when one particularly good gift would work better for everyone.

Opt for one sure thing

The more gifts you select, the more likely you’ll pick some duds. If you can find one sure thing, don’t be afraid to give it more than once.

Don’t be ashamed to regift

Researchers have found that most people assume that someone who gave them a gift would be deeply offended if they passed it along to someone else. But these same studies show that most givers actually aren’t offended. Once they give someone a present, they figure it’s the recipient’s right to dispose of it at will.

Let your recipients do the work for you

They know what they want better than you do. My daughter Isabella regularly gives me a list of her most-wanted pieces. This year, she is getting a Rotate black party dress from Net-A-Porter. My son Hugo is getting a new Apple computer – (it was high time for an update). If they’ve asked for something, buy it instead of surprising them.

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