In this holiday season, gift givers often spend hours trying to get the perfect present — but social scientists say those efforts are often misplaced.
The more someone overthinks a gift purchase, the less likely it will be appreciated, according to Northeastern University professor Mary Steffel.
She says her experiments into the psychology of gift giving show that most people are happiest getting the most flexible – and least personalized — type of gifts.
“Recipients actually prefer getting a gift card to a traditional gift or even cash to a gift card,” Steffel says, “because they like the versatility to be able to pick out something that’s what they truly wanted.”
Steffel says gift givers also make the mistake of trying to buy unique items for different friends – when chances are they’d all be happy with the same Dylan album.
And she says if you think about what people would buy for themselves — including practical items like vaccuum cleaners — the gift is more likely to be a hit.