If you buy your mate a cute yoga mat for their birthday, science says you should buy one for yourself, too. Research in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that gift recipients are happier with a present if the giver got themselves that same present. We love science!
This, FYI, is called “companionizing”. Ie, that yoga mat is a “companionized gift”. “The fact that a gift is shared with the giver makes it a better gift in the eyes of the receiver,” says study co-author Evan Polman, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business. “They like a companionized gift more, and they even feel closer to the giver.”
In the study, participants rated a list of gifts. They were asked how likeable, thoughtful and considerate they found each of the gifts – or how likable, thoughtful and considerate the gifts would be if the attached card included a message like, “I hope you like the gift. I got myself the same one too!” The scores went up for gifts that the giver got for themselves, too. This even worked for pretty dull gifts, like staplers and wool socks.
Plus, the authors found that the giver and receiver didn’t have to be close for this “companionization effect” to work. So if you have to get a gift for your boyfriend’s awkward aunty, you may want to swing a scented candle her way and get one for yourself, too.
Caveat: the study authors note that it’s not enough for the giver to just say, I’ve heard these socks are extra cosy – the online reviews said so. You also won’t get the same outcome if you’d just happened to buy the same socks ages ago. The gift selection has to happen at the same time. One for you, one for me…
“There’s an inexorable link between similarity and liking. The more similar you are to someone, typically the more you like them,” Polman says. “When you receive a gift that someone has also bought for themselves, you feel more like them. That leads you to like your gift more.”
The authors gift giving advice: “If you are faced with buying a gift for somebody, and you’re uncertain if they’re going to like it, maybe you instead find something you would like for yourself,” Polman says. “Then buy the recipient the same thing, and communicate the companionizing. It makes the gift more special, like the giver is trying to communicate something: ‘I like this, and I like you. So maybe you’ll like what I like.’” Let’s hope so… because we’ve just bulk bought scented candles.