Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Community News Network

May 7, 2014

Mom doesn't want you to be thoughtful Sunday

WASHINGTON — When selecting a gift for Mother's Day, or any other occasion, don't try to be "thoughtful." Choose the gift the recipient will like best. Don't confuse what you know with what she feels.

That may sound obvious, but it isn't. A growing body of psychological research suggests that gift givers pay too much attention to the inputs of gift selection - the price, how much trouble they went to, what they got for other people - and too little to what they know about what's likely to make the recipient happy.

This work shows that "people tend to be egocentric when making choices for others and that they often fail to recognize that their own perspective may differ from the perspective of those for whom they are choosing," write Mary Steffel of the University of Cincinnati and Robyn A. LeBoeuf of the University of Florida in a recent article in the Journal of Consumer Research. The article's title gives away the results: "Overindividuation in Gift Giving: Shopping for Multiple Recipients Leads Givers to Choose Unique but Less Preferred Gifts."

Consider one of their experiments. Participants read Facebook profiles describing either one or two imagined cousins (Steph and Sarah). One was supposed to be from the mother's side of the family, the other from the father's, making the two less likely to know each other. The profiles included a list of each cousin's favorite movies. All of Sarah's were animated films. Five out of seven on Steph's list also were animated; the other two were science fiction/fantasy movies.

Participants were then given a list of 10 movie DVDs in six genres, including the Pixar animated hit "Up" and two science fiction/fantasy movies. Some participants were asked to choose a DVD for Steph's birthday after reading only her profile; a second group picked a DVD for her after reading both profiles; and a third group was told to select DVDs as birthday presents for both cousins. Those choosing gifts for both cousins were explicitly told they could give them the same movie. Three parallel groups were asked simply to predict which movie Steph or both cousins would use a gift certificate to purchase on their own.

Both cousins' lists showed they liked animated films most, making "Up" the best bet for a successful present. That's also the film the vast majority of people in all three prediction groups - including 75 percent of those predicting for both cousins - imagined that Steph would choose for herself.

But when it came to choosing gifts, people acted differently. As long as they were picking a DVD only for Steph, more than 80 percent still went for "Up." But a mere 43 percent of those selecting presents for both cousins gave Steph the animated movie she was most likely to enjoy. They paid more attention to what made her different from Sarah than they did to what she liked. They let the irrelevant circumstances of shopping for a second person trump what they knew about her taste.

Trying to be "thoughtful," it seems, leads people to be thoughtless.

Testing that conclusion directly in another experiment, Steffel and LeBoeuf found that participants given more time and encouraged to shop "thoughtfully" did worse than those given limited time and told not to "overthink" the decision. "Givers may, paradoxically, get worse gifts the more they try to be especially thoughtful," they write, "as their focus on giving individuated gifts may make them lose focus on getting the best-liked gifts." (Another experiment found that givers weren't going for variety for its own sake and only mixed up the selection when there was a difference in the movies listed by the two cousins.)

This research has the faults of most psychology experiments. It draws broad, if tentative, conclusions from a relatively small sample, only 168 participants, and it's explicitly limited to the United States (the authors note that gift-giving customs could affect results elsewhere). But it rings true. It's hard to see the world through other people's eyes - even when we're buying them gifts.

               

         

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014

  • weightloss.jpg The scales of injustice: Weight loss differs between men, women

    You're not imagining it: There really are differences between the way men and women diet, lose weight and respond to exercise.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Robin_Williams.jpg Williams among many who cracked jokes while fighting depression

    Robin Williams isn't the only comedian who has struggled with a disease suffered by an estimated 350 million people worldwide. Williams, a comedian known for his manic energy, committed suicide Aug. 11 at age 63.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drug dealers going corporate

    A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are doing business with legal marijuana sellers, suggesting that federal rules giving financial institutions the go-ahead to provide services to dealers are starting to work.

    August 13, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Deadly Landslides in Japan Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Arrests Witnessed in Ferguson Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape Texas Gov. Perry: Indictment 'a Political Act' US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading Video Shows Ferguson Cop Months Before Shooting Heavy Rains Flood Arizona Roads US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller