Washington: Selecting a gift for someone is one of the toughest decisions a person takes in his/her life. The amount of calculation thought and anticipation that goes into making this choice can be exhausting.
According to the latest study, gift givers tend to go for a gift that is likely to surprise and delight the recipient at the moment instead of getting something that would satisfy the recipient.
Adelle Yang, one of the researchers said, “The pleasure that we can derive from others’ display of emotions is more powerful than previously considered.” According to the study, we commonly assume that other peoples’ emotional displays are a representation of their internal states, such as their happiness and welfare, and we use these displays to guide our decision making.
The researchers posited the “smile-seeking hypothesis,” surmising that people would gravitate towards the gifts that they anticipate will elicit the most enthusiastic emotional responses, rather than those that the recipients themselves would prefer or would derive the most satisfaction from.
The researchers tested this hypothesis in a series of studies involving both real and imaginary gift-giving decisions.
In one online study, 357 participants imagined they were either part of a gift-receiving couple or one of the couple’s gift-giving friends. They then saw pictures and descriptions of two similarly priced pairs of mugs, one set was personalized and the other had an ergonomic design. They then rated how much they liked each option and predicted the emotional response and satisfaction that each option would elicit.
Regardless of whether they were giving or receiving the gift, participants anticipated that the personalized mugs would elicit a stronger emotional response than the ergonomic mugs would. Givers thought the couple would be equally satisfied with the two mug options and tended to prefer the personalized mugs, a preference driven by the emotional response they anticipated from the couple. Receivers, on the other hand, showed no preference for one option over the other.
Another online study examining real-life Christmas gifts showed that people derived the most enjoyment from giving those gifts that elicited the biggest reactions from recipients, especially if they were able to watch the recipient open it in person. The satisfaction that gifts would bring their recipients over the long term did not seem to influence gift-givers’ enjoyment.
Findings from additional studies revealed that givers’ preference for gifts with a “wow” factor disappeared when they learned that they wouldn’t be able to see the recipient’s reaction.
The study appears in the Journal of Psychological Science.