- Special Pages
London: While the organised among us will already have purchased, wrapped and tagged our Christmas gifts, for those beginning to panic at the shopping task ahead, there is helpful scientific advice: don’t agonise over picking the perfect present.
Psychologists have decided that the old belief that “it’s the thought that counts” is simply not true. It’s the gift. So you might as well ask the recipient what he or she wants.
According to Nick Epley, a lecturer in behavioural science at the University of Chicago, “The common wisdom is that the receiver values the amount of time you spent thinking about the gift, trying to get it right. This is a mistaken assumption according to our experiments.” In a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in November, Epley contends that gift receivers do not care about how much thought and effort went into buying a gift; they primarily care whether they like
it or not.
“Our definition of thoughtfulness, is the amount of thought you expend to get a gift for someone that they will really like. In our experiments we contrast that with simply getting the gift that someone puts at the top of their wish list. That’s thoughtless because it didn’t require much thought,” he said.
“If you give me a gift, I don’t necessarily think about the amount of time you spent getting the gift. I think about the gift. Do I like the gift? That is the first thing I think of. If I like it, I like it equally whether it was chosen randomly or thoughfully, according to our data.