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Giving 101: An Overview of the Psychology of Giving Gifts

Gift giving is a ritual in modern society and has been for thousands of years, but have you ever given any thought into why we give gifts? Sure, it’s often out of a sense of obligation, but there are many other factors in play. And, what about that whole “‘Tis better to give than to receive” thing? Does it really hold up or is it just something people say? Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating psychology of gift giving, along with some tips to keep in mind when selecting gifts for everyone from best friends to sought-after clients.

Less Guilt, More Gains

Have you ever resented having to go to the store to pick out a gift for a birthday party or other event? While it might have seemed like a hassle in the moment, the truth is that doing so likely benefited you in a number of ways. Why? Because people position themselves for a number of obvious payoffs by expressing everything from interest to gratitude through gift giving.

But the benefits of giving the perfect gift don’t end there. In fact, experts reveal that gift giving is an important part of helping people build bonds with the others around them. Says Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at South University — Savannah Devin A. Byrd, Ph.D., “There is the whole act — determining what needs to be given and making sure it fits with the person. There is an emotional lift when searching for the gift.”

Beyond that, there is the larger issue of altruism and its benefits to society. While we all have our selfish moments, well-being for others is ultimately a necessary component in the perpetuation of our species. In giving unselfishly with no interest in what we might get in return, we’re benefiting our own psychological health as well as society at large.

Giving gifts

From bakery treats to barbecue eats, mail order food makes for delicious — and beneficial — gift giving.

The Reciprocal Benefits of Choosing Well

While gift-giving can be used to express a broad range of feelings, the type of gift should directly correlate to the relationship and/or desired feeling to be conveyed, according to Byrd. He explains, “If it is friend to friend, people will remain thoughtful. If it is a romantic relationship, people will try to go for sentiment as well. [Gift-giving] taps into how we want to connect with that individual.”

Because of this, giving to people you know well can often be easier than giving to acquaintances or clients. After all, choosing a mail order food gift — commonly regarded as one of the most effective forms of gift-giving for their winning combination of usefulness and personalization — is a relative no-brainer when you’re picking for a known steak lover or chocolate fanatic.

So where do corporate gifts fit into the mix? That depends on what you want to say. While it may take more time to source just-right gifts for clients, it’s effort and money well spent in terms of fostering hard-to-come-by loyalty in today’s increasingly competitive economy. Just keep in mind that — contrary to popular misconception — money does matter. Says Byrd, “A person can have immediate feelings of resentment if they feel a person has not spent enough. They feel undervalued or cheated.”

In other words, good intentions only go so far if the gift misses the mark. When it comes to gift giving as relationship-building, taking time to select a gift that truly conveys the extent of the feeling you wish to convey is an essential part of the process.

One last thing to remember. Online shopping has completely altered the way people give and receive gifts. Sending a gift from afar can bridge the geographical gap to bring people closer together. In the process, both parties derive emotional fulfillment.

Giving gifts

What better way to please a lobster lover than with a surprisingly succulent delivery?

According to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, “Gift exchanges can reveal how people think about others, what they value and enjoy, and how they build and maintain relationships.” The takeaway? Gift giving feels good, but it is also a powerful act for both givers and recipients. If you’re ready to start harnessing that power in both your personal and professional life, browse our most popular delicious food gifts today.