Thoughtful, Pricey Gifts Are a Waste of Time

For recipients, it just doesn't matter, say researchers
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2011 11:39 AM CST
Go right ahead and skip Tiffany's.   (?sunshinecity)

(Newser) – Are you the kind of person who spends hours fretting over the perfect holiday gift? Or who tries to impress by spending big? Don't bother, because it's not helping your cause, writes John Tierney in the New York Times. In fact, price matters a lot more to the giver than to the recipient—and gift-getters would rather have money or something they put on a wish list than a surprise present, according to research by Stanford University psychologists. (Surprised? What do you think a married couple would rate more favorably: cash, the sheets they registered for, or those ridiculously expensive crystal candlesticks...)

The problem, say the researchers, is that we tend to have an "egocentric bias" when giving, and focus on the experience we had while buying the gift. But people receiving the present don't know what we went through or what alternative presents we didn't buy. Of course, there is another aspect to gift giving, besides how the recipient feels—being generous can make you happy. "If you don’t feel good unless you find something special and extravagant, then go right on shopping," says Tierney. "But if you would just as soon skip that experience, you can now do so without feeling guilty."

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