Medical Technology

The Psychology of Great Gift-Giving

Can we follow the age-old advice that it’s the thought that counts? Experts share advice on giving gifts that make everyone happy.

What to know:

  • While “it’s the thought that counts” is important for the person giving the gift, the person receiving the gift tends to care more about the gift itself, according to research by Nicholas Epley, PhD, a behavior scientist and director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago.

  • Marisa G. Franco, PhD, a psychologist and friendship expert, similarly emphasizes directly asking people what they would like.

  • Buying things from someone’s wish list or giving gift cards or money often makes the receiver happier than attempting to give something unique or unexpected.

  • Gifted experiences, like event tickets or trip vouchers, tend to be better received than material items and make the receiver feel more connected to the giver, according to research in the Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Sentimental gifts with emotional value, like something handmade or that took a long time to find, also are often more appreciated, especially if the gift is also something the receiver actually wants.

This is a summary of the article, “Gift Giving: Is It Really the Thought That Counts? Psychologists Weigh In,” published The Washington Post on December 13. The full article can be found on

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The Medical Progress

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