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Here’s how to give a good gift, according to science


‘Tis the season of giving. ‘Tis also the season of returning.

American consumers are projected to spend roughly $960 billion this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. But retailers expect returns to account for almost 20 percent of those sales.

That return frenzy arises, at least in part, because people tend to make a lot of mistakes when giving presents, says Julian Givi, a marketing expert and psychologist who has been studying gifting practices, and when they go awry, for roughly a decade.

When Givi went into this line of research, he assumed that gift givers were simply motivated by a desire to please recipients. Not so much, he quickly discovered. Instead, people often give gifts that satisfy their own desires — for uniqueness, societal approval or as a gag — rather than the desires of recipients, says Givi, of West Virginia University in Morgantown.

In other words, people would be a whole lot better at giving gifts if they could just get their own egos out of the way. Givi and colleagues reviewed research into all…

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