Quick, name one way to make a gift impressive.
Quick, quick, quick!
Unless I spoiled things with the title of this article you probably thought that spending more makes a gift more impressive.
I would have thought so too, but we’d both be wrong.
It turns out that when psychologists tested whether price was linked to a gift recipient appreciating a gift ornot the answer was, surprisingly, no.
It’s Not About the Money
The studies done broke down a few different gift-giving scenarios. Mostly they looked at birthday gifts but interestingly they also looked at engagement rings.
You would think (I thought) that, of any type of gift, an engagement ring’s effectiveness would be tied to how much was paid for it.
Nothing of the sort was found when recipients were surveyed, however.
It turns out that all of the hoopla about months’ of income and the arms-race between jewlers to offer more unique and fabulous engagement rings is just what you would expect it is – a carnival to benefit the jewelers rather than the customers.
In the study men expected that price would affect how much their fiances would appreciate the ring. The ladies in question, however, did not say that it mattered much. Women who thought that their fiances spent a few hundred dollars reported being just as appreciative as women receiving rings costing thousands of dollars.
The only ones who really benefited from the men’s focus on the price were the jewelers.
They Weren’t Just Being Nice
Your first reaction to reading the above might be to picture the women with cheap rings deluding rationalizing to themselves that they ‘should be’ appreciative or lying to the surveyor in order to not sound petty.
In another interesting twist, however, the studies also included questions that tried to measure how likely someone was to try to please the interviewer.
Questions along the lines of “I don’t steal”. Subtle stuff.
Even adjusting for how often someone bent the truth on those questions, though, people reported appreciating gifts with very little regard for how much they cost. They appreciated gifts for reasons other than how hard it was for the giver to get the gift.
So How Do I Choose a Gift They Will Appreciate?
The authors of the study suggest that what is going on is that gift-givers see the whole process as a shopping trip. You don’t want any of the gifts that might be appropriate for them so the most important difference between them in your eyes is the price.
You want to show that you care for the gift recipient so you are worried about the one difference that you would be interested in among those options – the price.
For the gift recipient, though, getting a gift shows that you are listening to them and paying attention. Getting a gift that they want shows care and dedication, regardless of the cost.
You can’t just go cheap, of course, and say ‘Well, price doesn’t matter, so here’s some garbage.’
Rather, being thoughtful and attentive are so important to whether a recipient appreciates a gift that they overwhelm whatever affect price might have.
An expensive gift that you don’t want shows that the giver doesn’t understand you might even work against the giver. What would you think about someone who spent thousands of dollars to buy you a famous person’s used chewing gum?
To read more about how to pick gifts that a giftee will appreciate check out my article on the Best Gift Ideas here.