Are Surprise Gifts Better than Getting Something You Asked for?

Although people have their own preferences, a 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that most North American gift recipients prefer receiving something that they asked for rather than a surprise gift, but gift givers tend to think that the recipients would prefer surprise gifts. Cash gifts were the most desired type of gift among gift recipients, even more than something they asked for, though gift givers tended to think that recipients would be less appreciative of cash gifts.

More about gift giving:

  • To give the most appreciated gifts, researchers say that gift givers should stick to registries, specific requests or cash. Although giving a surprise gift might feel better to the giver, because it implies that he or she took the time and made the effort to think of an original present, such gifts are rarely as appreciated as cash or requested gifts.

  • The disconnect between what gift givers think recipients want and what recipients actually want appears to be tied to what is called an egocentric empathy gap. Basically, people tend to overestimate the extent to which others share their views.

  • Gift giving plays a strong role in many cultures and religions, and gift etiquette varies worldwide. For instance, in China, giving a book or a clock is often considered unlucky, because the word for "book" sounds like the word for "lose," and a gift of a clock implies that the giver will be present when the recipient dies.
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Discussion Comments


I don't like surprise gifts. I'd rather have people ask me what I really want. It saves them time and their hard earned money.


yeah that's true. I would also prefer to get cash so that I can buy something of my choice. and then it would be more useful for me as well.

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