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#305 PEER’s Guide to Gift-Giving

What kind of gifts do people like receiving?

Improve an undesirable gift with a note indicating you own the gift too, although some gifts cannot be improved (example: stapler). When in doubt, stick with a wish-list or something sentimental (example: framed photo of yourself with recipient). Research suggests late and/or cheap gifts might be acceptable. The gifts used in studies were ones few would recommend (example: pen). However, a lack of data exists when the recipient is your significant other: Tread carefully in this evidence-free zone.

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  • Fancy versus practical gift:
    • 189 participants rated preferences for “luxury” or “practical” pen;1 scale (1=very little to 7=very much).
      • Participants receiving practical pen:
        • Liked it more (score: 4.9 versus 4.4), felt happier (4.8 versus 3.9); all comparisons statistically different.
      • Limitation: No comparison to any other gift.
  • More versus less expensive gift:
    • 197 participants: more expensive (iPod) and less expensive (CD) gifts similarly appreciated [score: 6.0 on 7-point scale (higher=greater appreciation)].2
      • Limitation: Both gifts now obsolete.
  • Sentimental gifts:
    • 330 participants, 86% preferred sentimental gift (photo of gift-giver and recipient) over “preference-matched gift” (framed photo of favourite musician).3
      • Limitation: Photos of musicians may be suboptimal comparator.
  • Gift timing:
    • 181 students rated importance of on-time birthday gift.4
      • Scale (1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree).
        • Timing unimportant: Mean rating=4.7
          • Limitations: Unclear how late gift would be (i.e., days versus months).
  • Wish-lists:
    • 90 students, recipient’s satisfaction score higher with registry gift: 8.6 versus 6.8 (non-registered gift) on 10-point scale (higher=better), statistically different.5
      • Limitations: the gifts utilized were all lamps.
  • Improving bad gifts:
    • 616 participants rated gift with/without notecard indicating: “I hope you like [this gift] -- I got myself [one] too!”.6
      • Some gifts (examples: cookbook, mug, socks) had improved “likeability, thoughtfulness and consideration” score (>0.5 points on 7-point scale) with notecard.
        • Others (examples: flashlight, stapler) no change.
  • No studies describing opinions of people receiving “regifted” items.
    • Original givers prefer their gifts be regifted versus thrown away.7
    • The Seinfeld cast give opinions in this segment.
  • Example desirable gifts from studies: Restaurant gift cards5, movie tickets5, blanket6, headphones6, and bourbon6.

Anne Davis January 6, 2022

Thank you for your research. Probably I’ll just hope for bourbon regifted.

Michael Thomassin January 11, 2022


Jennifer Douek March 25, 2022

Very useful research. Will remember that I’ll need to attach more than a notecard to jazz up a stapler. Perhaps a bottle of bourbon?

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  • Samantha Moe PharmD
  • Adrienne J Lindblad BSP ACPR PharmD

1. Baskin E, Wakslak CJ, Trope Y, et al. Journal of Consumer Research. 2014; 41(1):169-82.

2. Flynn FJ, Adams GS. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2009; 45(2):404-9.

3. Givi J, Galak J. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2017; 27(4):473-9.

4. Teigen KH, Olsen MV, Solas OE. Br J Soc Psychol 2005; 44:125-44.

5. Ward MK, Broniarczyk SM. Journal of Marketing Research. 2016; 53(6):1001-18.

6. Polman E, Maglio SJ. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2017; 43(11):1582-94.

7. Adams GS, Flynn FJ, Norton MI. Psychol Sci. 2012; 23(10):1145-50.

Authors do not have any conflicts of interest to declare.

Les auteurs n’ont aucun conflit d’intérêts à déclarer.