Be a better gift-giver – with psychological research.

Scientific American recently published a gift guide with no stuff it – just research showing how to be a better gift-giver:

A 2009 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that although givers tend to think a fancier, expensive gift will be appreciated more, receivers are actually happier with cheaper, more practical presents. In the experiment, friends gave one another a new pen (the pairs were students, for whom pens are always at a premium). The givers thought their friends would prefer a heavy, fancy, special-occasion pen, but the getters in fact preferred the cheaper, lighter, portable one. “You think that things like price and the effort you put into a gift will matter, but the person you’re giving it to doesn’t see the work that went into it or the price tag—they just have the actual thing to focus on and how it will fit into their life,” says Nathan Novemsky, a professor of marketing at Yale University….

When Novemsky told me about some research he is doing now that suggests wrapping a present in a plain brown paper bag—or not at all—might be better than something gorgeous and beribboned, I thought, “No way! This is total holiday heresy.”

Research from Harvard and Stanford business schools published in 2011 found that gift receivers in general are much happier when they’re given exactly what they asked for rather than something “thoughtful” that wasn’t on their list.