Tools for Practice

#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.

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  • Adrienne J Lindblad BSP ACPR PharmD
  • Samantha Moe 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.