How to always pick the perfect gift

If you've ever had trouble choosing a gift for a friend or loved one, you're not the only one - but scientists say they have the answer.

Researchers say found choosing between a sentimental or superficial gift is one of the most frequently-confronted gift giving tradeoffs.

Gift-givers choose superficial gifts more often because they're unsure whether a sentimental gift will be liked, and they tend to think that a superficial gift aligning with someone's interests will be enjoyed - but what recipients really prefer are sentimentally valuable gifts.

Researchers found that gift-givers view a sentimental gift as having the potential to be very well liked or not at all.

'Essentially, givers seem to view sentimentally valuable gifts as having the potential to be either home runs or strikeouts, but they view preference-matching gifts as a sure single,' says Julian Givi, a PhD candidate in marketing, and the lead author of the study.

'Rather than risking a strikeout, they go for the sure thing, when what recipients truly desire are sentimentally valuable gifts.' 

The researchers discovered the gift-giving mismatch by conducting three experiments.

In the first experiment, participants were told to write down the name of a friend, and those selected to be 'givers' were asked to choose a gift for the friend.

Some participants were told it would be a birthday gift, while others were told it was for a going away party

They could choose either a framed photo of their friend's favorite musician, or a framed photo of the two friends on a day where they had a lot of fun together.

Meanwhile, the participants who were designated to be 'recipients' were asked to select which of the two gifts they would prefer to receive.

The results showed that people don't give sentimentally valuable gifts as often as recipients would like.

The researchers also tried to see if the level of closeness of two friends made this gift giving mismatch disappear, but there was still a discrepancy.

In a second experiment, the researchers tried to see if the same pattern was also observed between romantic partners.

In this experiment, partners could give either a gift-card to their partner's favorite store, or a sentimental gift such as a photo of the two together with their initials carved in the frame.

Just as in the prior experiment, recipients didn't receive this sentimental gift as much as they'd wanted

In a third experiment, researchers tried to figure out why giver's weren't choosing sentimental gifts.

The researchers hypothesized that this may occur because givers feel relatively certain that preference-matching gifts, which possess superficial attributes recipients are known to like, will be well-liked by recipients, but relatively uncertain that the same is true for sentimentally valuable gifts.

So in this study, the researchers primed some givers to feel positively about risk-taking, and others to feel negatively about risk-taking, and then had them choose whether to give a sentimentally valuable or preference-matching gift.

They did this by asking one group of participants to write about a time in their lives when they took a risk and it paid off, while the other group wrote about a time when they took a risk and failed.

Then the groups were asked to read information in which they were deciding between two bicycle gifts for a friend.

One of the bicycles had sentimental value, while the other was made by a brand the recipient liked.

The results revealed that participants who had written about risks paying off were much more likely to choose the sentimental gift compared to those who had written about risks failing.

'People spend billions of dollars every year on gifts, and the data suggests that they're not spending money in the best way possible,' Givi says.

'We are also finding evidence in a different project that people feel closer to givers when they receive sentimental gifts, so people should keep this in mind the next time they're making gift-giving decisions.' According to Daily mail.