Social Science

Give What You Get

Package wrapped in yellow paper and yellow bow.


If it’s the thought that makes a gift count, here’s a thought that can make your gesture count extra: get a little something for yourself.

Research by Evan Polman of the Wisconsin School of Business shows that recipients are happier with presents when givers get themselves the same thing — a phenomenon he calls companionizing. “The fact that a gift is shared with the giver makes it a better gift in the eyes of the receiver,” he says. “They like a companionized gift more, and they even feel closer to the giver.”

Polman’s subjects rated the likability of various gifts — and how likable the offerings would be if an attached card said, “I hope you like the gift. I got myself the same one, too!” Scores went up for presents that also found a home with the giver.

“When you receive a gift that someone has also bought for themselves, you feel more like them,” Polman says. “That leads you to like your gift more.”

Published in the Winter 2017 issue


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