Since the holidays are upon us once more, I thought you would be interested to read about the psychology of gift-giving. In short, even though giving someone a gift is simple enough, the psychology behind this act is much more complex than most people realize.
A large number of scientists, ranging from psychologists to economists, have studied the purpose and ramifications of gift giving in humans and have learned a surprising number of things about it. Even though many people claim they are going to opt out of gift-giving altogether because they think the holidays have been overcommercialized, gift-giving actually serves a variety of social goals. Basically, giving a gift is used to strengthen an already existing social bond between two individuals. Thus, gift-giving has strong evolutionary selection because males exchanged gifts for sexual access and thus, enjoyed more reproductive success than those who were less generous, while evolution favored females who chose specific items that would sustain her relationship with her mate and nurture her offspring.
These evolutionary differences in gift-giving between the genders appear to be subtle, but actually have strong repercussions today. For example, men are generally very conscious of the price of the gifts they chose, whereas women tend to prefer items with emotional significance.
Interestingly, people who refuse gifts are cutting themselves off from important social cues by encouraging their social group to ignore them and their needs. Basically, by refusing gifts, they are isolating themselves from their loved ones and are weakening their relationship with others in their social circle.
“That doesn’t do a service to the relationship,” pointed out Ellen J. Langer, a Harvard psychology professor. “If I don’t let you give me a gift, then I’m not encouraging you to think about me and think about things I like. I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do people a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving.”
So I am curious; what is the best gift that you’ve ever given to someone?