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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GIFT GIVING AND WHY HOME MADE PRESENTS ARE BEST
DECEMBER 10, 2009
We are getting close to Christmas and it seems that the present shopping is gathering a storm. We might be in a recession, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping the Christmas shopping frenzy. But is shopping the only way to celebrate Christmas? Do we need to be spending so much money on presents? Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and I love giving and receiving presents, but my concern is about this compulsion to spend ever increasing amounts of money, which few of us have to spare.
Psychologically present giving is about sharing love, showing appreciation, demonstrating that someone is important to you. Somehow these points have becomes confused with money and present giving has become about demonstrating how much money you are willing to spend on someone.
There was a lovely piece of research that demonstrated the added value of a gift. University students were given a mug as gift and asked to value it. As such, the gifts appeared to be worth little. However when the students were asked to auction their gifts off to other students, the researchers found that students would only consider parting with their gifts if they were allowed to set a reserve price that was about 27% higher than that actual price. It could be argued that this was just a typical response of hard up students trying to make a fast buck, but if that was the case they would have sold the mug at any price. The main point to take from this research is that the true value of a gift is higher than its real worth. In other words it isn’t the actual gift that counts, nor its value, but the fact that it is a gift from somebody. One point to remember in this is that this effect cannot be had if the gift is money. Money has a definitive value!
Do bear in mind when organising your Christmas gifts, that giving is a two way process. Whilst it might seem paramount for you to find the perfect gift, it is also important to allow others to give to us. Sometimes we get so hung up on our side of the process that we fail to allow or to acknowledge the other person’s need in this ritual.
Another thing to bear in mind, especially when your partner presents you with a bunch of half dead flowers from the petrol station, is that gift giving is gender related. Evidence suggests that girls are more likely to accompany their mothers on Christmas shopping trips and help to wrap the presents than boys are. It seems that some men just are wired that way!
So don’t fuss over the value or size of a present, the recipient will be pleased that you thought of them and more to the point, giving presents can increase your subjective well-being and lower your levels of stress. If students put a higher value on a mug from the campus shop just because it’s a gift, then this effect is magnified if the gift triggers a sentimental response in the receiver. Just think about the value that your mum or gran will put on a present that you’ve made yourself…and what better way of demonstrating the somebody’s importance to you than by giving them your time.
These days our lives have become so pressured that we feel inclined to buy ourselves out of problems that we don’t have time to deal with. We spend money rather than invest our time. So by giving a present that you made yourself, you’re giving something that is much more valuable than money, you’re giving your time….and more to the point something of yourself.
Worried your skills aren’t up to it? Then think again. There are all sorts of simple gifts you can make for your friends and family. Why not try some of these simple projects?