How to Find the Perfect Christmas Present

November 30, 2011 Katharina Lochner
image Xmas mem cut-e an Aon company

Getting the Gift Giving Right

Christmas is approaching. Many of us have already started hunting for Christmas presents. Are you wondering what presents to give to your family members and friends? Psychological research might help you solve your problem.

In a series of studies, Francesca Gino from Harvard University and Francis Flynn from Stanford University demonstrated that gift-receivers prefer presents they asked for to surprise presents (that they have not explicitly asked for). They even consider gift-givers that fulfill their wishes more thoughtful than givers of surprise gifts. Gift-givers, on the other hand, are just as happy with giving a present that fulfills the gift-givers wish as they are with giving a surprise gift. However, once people are in the role of gift-givers, they seem to forget that when they were gift-receivers they like to get what they had asked for. They give what they think the receiver might like instead of simply asking what the receiver wants. However, when the gift-receiver just indicated one wish, the gift-giver seems to be happy to follow the wish.

The original article is in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and can be found on Franesca Gino’s homepage as well as on Francis Flynn’s page. There is an outline of the studies on the BPS Research Digest Blog.

Now, what does that mean? If we are in the role of the gift-giver, we just have to ask the gift-receiver what he or she wants. This will make him or her happier than a surprise present, and we will even be considered more thoughtful than without asking. If we are in the role of the gift-receiver and have a certain wish, we have to express it. And we have to express only one wish. This will make it more likely to receive what we want. Give them what they want, and everyone will be happy.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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