Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) from ‘Parks and Recreation’ loves giving presents.
Donating to a charity in a loved one’s name seems like the perfect gift.
You feel warm and fuzzy about your money going towards good in the world and a charity receives some much-needed financial aid… but does the person on the receiving end really love it as much as you (and the organisation) do? What the recipient won’t say to your face is: they really just wanted a new mug for their office cubicle, thanks.
Thanks to new research, we have an official verdict on the charity donation as Christmas gift: sadly, it isn’t guaranteed to thrill the recipient.
In a recent episode of the PsychCrunch podcast, Dr Christian Jarrett conducted an interview with a professor who is researching socially responsible gifts. In Professor Lisa Cavanaugh’s 2015 study, gift-givers were asked to choose between two gifts that they would actually give to others.
Watch: Trust us: beauty advent calendars are always a welcome gift. These are our picks. (Post continues after video.)
While both gifts were coffee-themed, there was one big difference: the level of social responsibility. One gift was a travel coffee flask, while the other was an Oxfam donation to support fair-trade coffee workers.
The findings confirmed what we all know, but are too embarrassed to admit. When the study participants gave the gift of a charity donation to an acquaintance, Cavanaugh explained that the recipients “really did not appreciate the gifts to the same extent that gift givers believed they would.”
Oh dear. Could it be that deep down, we humans are… kind of selfish?
Well, all is not lost — especially between close friends. Cavanaugh found when a close friend received the charity donation, they appreciated it as much as the gift-giver expected. It's good to know that our friends will agree with us on all the important issues, and not just which Ryan Gosling film is the best (Crazy, Stupid, Love, obviously.)
If you want to rival Santa Claus in your gift-giving skills, then take a note out of his book. There's a reason why Santa wants you to write to him: that gift list is priceless.
A 2011 study by Professor Frank Flynn, of Stanford Graduate School of Business, found gift recipients will always be appreciative of gifts that they have actually asked for. And yet, we persist in choosing items off-the-list, as we believe the recipient will be more impressed with the thought put into it.
“We can strengthen our relationships by giving thoughtful gifts to those we care about, but we often lack the insight to do it well,” Flynn told Stanford Business. (Post continues after gallery.)
But if you really think that your thoughtful, unusual gift will be perfect for your friend, the key is to explain to your friend exactly why you chose the present. So, if it's the thought that counts, voicing that thought will go a long way.
In a 2012 study published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology, a strange, unwanted gift (a wooden ruler from a museum gift store) was rated as more desirable once they learned that the gift was thoughtfully chosen just for them.
Of course, when you receive that odd, unwanted yet also good-for-the-planet gift, you can always do as Lady Gaga suggests: put on your po-po-poker face and squeal, "I love it!" After all, who ever gave a gift out of hatred? That would just be weird. 'Tis the season to be jolly.
What are you hoping to receive this Christmas?