Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Christmas Gifts Made Simple

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Christmas Gifts Made Simple

Article excerpt

So now we come to the most stressful day of the holiday season. If you have time to read this, it means that you've already purchased all your gifts. (Of course, if you haven't finished your shopping, put down the paper and get to the mall, you dope.)

But now, as you sit there with your coffee and burnt toast, you have to listen to the annoying voice in the back of your head: Did I get enough? Did I get the right things? What if I got something small and my spouse got me something big?

Gift giving can be nausea inducing. Luckily, some local researchers have done a scientific study to help reduce errors in gift giving, and it was just published in the distinguished journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. It involves a researcher right out of our own Carnegie Mellon University and says what you've probably guessed by now - you've been doing it wrong.

According to the study, gift givers often lose sight of what the whole exchange is about, because they want to get something out of the giving instead of making the person getting the gift happy.

Givers want to present a present that wows the person. Givees, on the other hand, don't want to be wowed. They want something they can use. Givers want to give something that sums up the relationship, a gift that gives the givee a gooey feeling about the giver. Givees don't want a warm feeling. They want what they asked for. Givers want to create a big surprise. Givees don't want a surprise, unless, of course, the surprise is that for once they got what they wanted. Got it?

Another finding of the study is that "socially responsible" gifts (think a donation to help dig a well in Desertistan, a bag of puppy chow dropped off in your name at the animal shelter, or a sweater crocheted out of recycled newspaper bags) might seem like a good idea, but not when someone really would like something more practical, like socks. Sure, go out and help a good cause, but don't do it in someone else's name, scrawl what you did on a Christmas card, hand it over, and then expect someone else to have a Merry Christmas.

Also, worried that you will be seen as a cheapskate if you don't spend enough on the gift? …

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