The psychology of gifting experiences
When it comes to gifts, the saying goes that it’s the thought that counts. We would argue it’s the memories made that makes a gift unforgettable.
It’s not just us that think experiences make the best gifts; it’s now scientifically proven to be the best type of present.
We buy gifts to mark important occasions and show love to those closest to us. Gifts can be symbolic, create shared memories and even strengthen relationships. A pair of socks is the exception to this.
Buying the ideal gift is an art form. When we give a gift, we imagine that moment of the recipient opening it and seeing the glee in their face.
Why do we buy gifts?
- To build relationships
- To show love and commitment
- To share symbolic communication
- To create shared memories
- To give long-lasting value
Make it memorable
What makes a gift memorable? The answer is the strength of the emotional response. Guess what type of gift provokes the strongest emotional reaction. Yes, it’s an experience.
Research from the University of Toronto Scarborough confirms that giving an experience as a gift can result in the recipient viewing their relationship with the gift-giver more positively. This is due to the more profound and complex emotional reactions to receiving an experience as a gift.
The emotional reactions include the initial joy of unwrapping the gift, to the anticipation of waiting for the experience and finally to the emotions during the experience itself. This series of emotions over time results in a memorable gift and a stronger bond with the gift-giver.
Think long-term value
They say it’s better to give than to receive. According to a study by Cindy Chan, an assistant professor in U of T Scarborough’s Department of Management and the Rotman School of Management, it’s actually better to give and receive an experience.
According to the study, gift-givers often make the mistake of only focussing on the moment that their gift is opened and bringing joy to the recipient at that moment alone. However, the key to giving an unforgettable gift is to focus on the long term value of the present.
Experiences such as trips away, hotel stays and flights have the bonus of being the type of gifts that are usually enjoyed with other people. This social element results in shared memories and moments that allow the emotional reaction to continue even long after the experience has finished.