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The Science of Gift Giving

When we buy someone a present, most of us try to get inside mind of the recipient, but thoughtful gifts--where you try to give someone what they want the most--are NOT the best bet. The giving of a thoughtful gift benefits the giver more than the person who receives it.

In the December 4th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Sumathi Reddy quotes behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley as saying, "It turns out it's not the thought that counts, it's the gift that counts."

So what DOES work best? Spending a lot of money isn't important, thank goodness. It turns out that the gifts people like the most are things they have explicitly requested--so ask all your friends to MAKE A LIST!

Research shows that most people, both givers and receivers, think that regifting is OK--the person who originally gave it to you is less likely to be offended than you might think. But it can sometimes get you in trouble: Reddy writes about regifter Humera Sayeed, who received a purse she didn't care for from her aunt, then gave it to one of her friends as a birthday present. A few months later (wouldn't you know it), the friend came over to the aunt's house and brought the purse with her, causing the aunt to say, "You know, Humera has a purse just like that!"

Sayeed thought fast--Reddy quotes her as saying, "You know, Auntie, I loved it so much that I got her the same one."

When you regift, you have to be aware of monograms and personal inscriptions: Reddy writes about Sharon Love, who once received a book with an inscription made out to another recipient. Reddy quotes her as saying, "It did kind of make me mad, so I just kind of regifted it the following year back to him."

We once knew a writer who, when he saw one of his books in a used book store with an inscription made out to someone in it, immediately bought the book and sent it BACK to the friend he'd originally signed it for.

There are new ways to read today, but if you still like the heft of a real hardcover, we have a bargain for our subscribers: A beautiful hardcover by Whitley for less than $5 (and it's not made out to anyone else!) We also offer the PERFECT Christmas present: our delightful crop circle calendar (you can get it for FREE if you subscribe for two years).



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