Got Gift Stress? Science Offers 3 Helpful Tips

No wonder everyone loves Thanksgiving — there are no gifts involved.

Gift giving, including the shopping and the choosing, is very stressful. Will the person like it? Will he or she be appreciative? Should I spend more? Should I regift? So many questions, so much guilt. Let science help you with three surprising gift-giving tips.

1. Get over the regifting guilt. Giving someone a gift you were given, but don’t really want, is becoming more acceptable, a recent survey shows, even though some of us still feel guilty about it.

A nationwide survey by American Express found that 79 percent of respondents believe regifting is OK, especially during the holidays, the Wall Street Journal reported. The survey, which polled about 2,000 people last year, found that nearly one-quarter of consumers said they regifted at least one item during the previous holiday season.

Still feel guilty about it? Wait until National Regifting Day, which this year is Dec. 20.

Research conducted by Frank Flynn, Ph.D., professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and colleagues found that regifting was seen as more acceptable if people were told it was National Regifting Day. That seemed to remove the psychological stigma of wrapping up a gift you got from someone else.

As it turns out, there actually is such a holiday. Money Management International, a nonprofit that helps people with financial difficulties, has run the Regiftable.com website for more than five years and has declared the third Thursday in December to be National Regifting Day, to coincide with many holiday office parties, according to the Wall Street Journal. So mark your calendars.

2. It’s not the thought that counts. A study last year in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that people are more appreciative when they receive a gift they have explicitly requested. “It turns out it’s not the thought that counts — it’s the gift that counts,” said coauthor Nicholas Epley, Ph.D., professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in the Wall Street Journal.

Another study, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that thoughtfulness, when it comes to gifts, is really in the eye of the giver. It makes you feel good to think you gave a thoughtful gift, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to the recipient’s feeling more appreciative. Better to give something recipients have said they wanted.

3. More money doesn’t get you more appreciation. If you think spending a lot will make people more appreciative, you’re wrong. A 2008 study co-authored by Flynn and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that an expensive gift doesn’t necessarily translate into more appreciation — especially if it’s something the recipient can’t use or didn’t really wish to have.

The lesson to be learned from all this? As Epley told the newspaper, “The secret to being a good gift giver … is to give them what they want.”

 

Photo: Laura Johansen/Getty Images