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Dec 17, 2019 06:25 AM EST

Happy Holidays: The Science behind Giving Gifts

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It's the season to prepare your holiday gifts. You're going to have to figure out who's getting a gift - but also how much you're going to actually spend and, most importantly, what to buy.

Over the traditional holiday season, Americans spend about $650 on gifts. And while giving gifts can make you happy, express your feelings to the receiver and even improve relationships to avoid the opposite effect which can be less than stellar.

Since you don't want to cause more harm than good to your holiday gift, how can you make sure you choose a gift that the recipient will love? The answer may be psychology.

1.      Don't think about the cost

Indeed, research has shown that more spending does not always ensure a well-received gift. One study found that the more expensive a gift was the more donors expected their recipients would like it. But while givers thought that spending more would convey more thoughtfulness, recipients did not really equate the price with their rate of appreciation.

2.      Think long term

Watching a friend or family member open a film-streaming subscription gift may not be thrilling, so you may be less likely to give one. But a receiver may actually love it if it was a gift that can often be appreciated over time. Look for timeless gifts that the receiver can use even when other stuff already gets out of fashion... like a digital wall clock perhaps?

3.      Never think uniqueness

One study showed that as we shop for them we tend to focus on the unique characteristics and personality of a recipient. But this hyper-specificity leads us to ignore other aspects of their desires and needs, which can make us purchase them a lesser gift. They still appear to want to buy various gifts for multiple people even though they may all be happier with the same thing and may never compare gifts at all.

To feel like a good gift giver, people mistakenly feel they need to diversify the gifts even at the cost of giving the best present. You might also miss purchasing something you own because you don't want your own sense of self to be compromised.

4.      Buy based on common interests

For better shopping, experts in psychology suggest that you start with something you share with the receiver. Rather of using your own preferences and changing them for how you and the recipient concentrate on what you share and choose a gift from there.

Think of a common interest that you share and buy something that your recipient will experience for an even better gift like concert tickets or a cooking class perhaps. Studies have also shown that experiential gifts, even if you don't experience the gift with your recipient, will bring you and the recipient together.

5.      You may also ask the recipient

However, if you don't have anything in common, psychologists advise that you just ask the recipient what they want or operate from a list. Yes, research shows that people value the presents they ask for more than those they don't.

Experts say that asking them what they want is the best way to make a person happy with a gift. It's not an answer many people want because good gifts are meant to be a surprise although this has been disproved by science.

6.      Don't think too much

At the end of the day, don't be too concerned about giving a terrible gift because it's rare to give really bad gifts. The recipient will feel some level of appreciation unless something is wildly inappropriate.

A study asked thousands of participants about the gifts they received and somebody never spoke of a bad gift. And even if you give someone you're near to a sub-par gift, your thought may save you.

That's because it triggers the recipient to think about why the giver chose it when someone gives a bad gift. In other words, the old adage might really be accurate. It is indeed the thought that really counts.

RELATED: Personalized Gifts are Simply the Best to Give Your Loved Ones on Holidays 

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