Cognitive Daily

Valentines’ Day is coming up in just a few weeks, so we thought we’d help our readers prepare by assessing the romance level of a few common gifts they might consider getting for their significant others.

I’ve noticed that there’s often a fine line between a romantic gift and a disappointing downer. Does a box of chocolates signal true love or the fact that you’ve given up on your lover ever having a perfect figure? Is a cooking a romantic dinner an event in itself or just a way to guilt your date into “putting out” later on? What gift strikes the right balance? Maybe we can determine the ideal romantic gift. Or maybe we’ll learn that everyone has different ideas as to what constitutes “romantic.”

Click here to participate

As usual, the study should take just a few minutes to complete. You have until Thursday, February 5 to participate. There is no limit on the number of respondents. Don’t forget to come back next week for the results!

[Thanks to Keldwud for the idea!]


  1. #1 Lilian Nattel
    January 30, 2009

    Early on in our relationship, my husband brought me home-made soup. I still think the way to my heart is through my stomach. What was great about it is that he had noticed a list on my fridge from a doctor of foods that I should eat/avoid and he had incorporated that into the soup without making any big deal of it himself. I just happened to notice it. That was even better.

  2. #2 Ewan
    January 30, 2009

    The ‘your drink’ Q seems odd; almost any of the above, depending on time and location and mood. [So I ticked ‘other’]

  3. #3 Stephen Downes
    January 30, 2009

    You know… by now, your regular readers know that your surveys are never about what you say they’re about. Skydiving indeed.

  4. #4 Dave Munger
    January 30, 2009

    Don’t you want to know what the best gift for a sky diver is?

  5. #5 Melissa (oddharmonic)
    January 30, 2009

    I have a bias toward skydiving; my partner is former Airborne and loves it.

  6. #6 razib
    January 30, 2009

    heteronormative tripe!

  7. #7 Stentor
    January 30, 2009

    In contrast to Ewan, I would never drink any of the listed drinks, and therefore chose “other.”

  8. #8 Cuttlefish
    January 30, 2009

    I hope you saw the Sunday New York Times article on female sexual desire–it relates, a bit more than tangentially, to your question. I commented a bit here:
    and ended with this:

    I could train a white dove to deliver my love
    In the form of a perfect red rose
    Or else write in the sky, in great letters so high
    That I guarantee everyone knows.
    I could gather wild flowers, and listen for hours,
    To whatever you have on your mind
    I could gaze in your eyes with appreciative sighs,
    Though they tell us, of course, love is blind.
    For you, I could bake the world’s best chocolate cake
    With a frosted “I love you” upon it,
    Or for something with taste that won’t go to your waist
    I could write a Shakespearean sonnet.
    I could write you a tune, by the light of the moon,
    Played on harpsichord, zither, and oboes,
    Or choose some other fashion to show you my passion:
    Let’s fuck like a pair of Bonobos.

  9. #9 Jenny
    January 31, 2009

    My drink? All of the above!

  10. #10 psycho
    January 31, 2009

    The questions/options were quite bad, I didnt get to express that the most romantic gift from my partner is, when she is happy, and successfull in fulfilling her dreams. I am not much into material things (only useful ones), I prefer experience (which is not limited to food).

    Btw, I think you should ask a few people for open answers, before writing survey options – they seem too one-sided everytime.

  11. #11 Tam
    January 31, 2009

    I thought the survey was pretty fun. I especially enjoyed imagining my responses to a first date giving me some strange things like lingerie or a sex toy.

  12. #12 Dave Munger
    January 31, 2009


    I did ask for open-ended answers on Twitter; I got a lot of suggestions but had to pick just a few — otherwise the survey would have been too long. I try to avoid putting open-ended options on a survey because no one gets to see those answers. I think it’s better when people post open-ended responses right here in the comments, rather than getting buried in survey data.

  13. #13 Last Minute Valentine Gifts
    February 1, 2009

    As usually, I think give flowers to our girls is romantic enough 😀 or, you can give her Samsung Ternity a867 if you have a lot of money 🙂

  14. #14 Erik
    February 1, 2009

    As others have noted, the my drink question is difficult to give an honest answer to – it seems as specific drinks are thought to link to personality traits in a too obvious way. Also, I think the person you receive a gift from matters greatly in how you perceive of the gift, which is somewhat connected to standing expectations.

  15. #15 Donna B.
    February 2, 2009

    After 18 years of marriage, my husband gave me a very nice set of knives for our anniversary, which is closely related to Valentine’s Day, I think

    His gift displayed a great amount of love and trust, I think. He was obviously not afraid that I might stab him.

  16. #16 marilove
    February 2, 2009

    As a woman, Valentine’s day is lame. Lame and pointless and lame.

  17. #17 Epinephrine
    February 2, 2009

    I found the drink question a little silly. My drink is beer, but that’s pretty all-encompassing. Beer isn’t just Coors, Molson and Bud. A nice Chimay in place of red wine with a meal? On a hot day a cloudy wheat bear (mit hefe) with a slice of lemon is great. Don’t pigeonhole me!

  18. #18 Epinephrine
    February 2, 2009

    Umm.. wheat *beer*, not bear. I’m not exactly sure what a wheat bear would be.

  19. #19 TJ
    February 3, 2009

    The most romantic gift is one which shows you know your partners’ likes, dislikes, fantasies… (whether or not you are into risky behaviors like sky-jumping! :^)

  20. #20 Tracey
    February 4, 2009

    I just want to know if anyone answered “romantic” to sex toys/lingerie on a FIRST DATE. I think that would just be creepy. “Nice to meet you, I brought you a bouquet of dildos.”

  21. #21 Dave Munger
    February 4, 2009


    Yes, they did. Were they joking? Possibly, but maybe they really would think that would be romantic. There are lots of different people in this wacky world. More about this on Friday.

  22. #22 Tracy W
    February 5, 2009

    What was the thing about gender-identifying about? I’m sure I’m a woman, but I don’t think I’m either feminine or masculine, or even anywhere in between. I like some things that are sterotypically femine and others that are sterotypically masculine. And I couldn’t answer that question for my husband either, even though I know he’s a man.

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