Niagara Gazette

Web Extra

May 9, 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
Web Extra
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    August 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    August 2, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Grandstands feel a little empty at NASCAR races

    Two decades after NASCAR started running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the crowds have thinned considerably. It's probably no reflection on the sport's massive following, which stretches from coast to coast, but it surely doesn't NASCAR's image help when the cameras pan across all of those empty seats.

    August 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Impeachment arms Democrats, doesn't end the Obama disaster

    Republicans may have grounds to impeach President Barack Obama but they would be daft to pursue a case they cannot win in a Senate controlled by Democrats. Impeachment would only drive the Democrats' fundraising and potentially squander the GOP's best opportunity in years to capture both houses of Congress then, in two years, the White House.

    August 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • ship Researchers: World Trade Center ship dates to 1773

    It's a ship tied to two critical points in American history: Sept. 11, 2001, and the eve of the Revolutionary War.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rodden, Danny.jpg Sheriff accused of lying about relationship with prostitute

    The sheriff of Clark County, Ind., faces an eight-count federal indictment that accuses him of lying about paying a prostitute for a sex act and giving her a badge so that she could claim a discount rate at a hotel.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 30, 2014

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page