May 9, 2014

MOM DOESN’T WANT YOU TO BE THOUGHTFUL ON MOTHER’S DAY: From Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg View:

Testing that conclusion directly in another experiment, Steffel and LeBoeuf found that participants given more time and encouraged to shop “thoughtfully” did worse than those given limited time and told not to “overthink” the decision. “Givers may, paradoxically, get worse gifts the more they try to be especially thoughtful,” they write, “as their focus on giving individuated gifts may make them lose focus on getting the best-liked gifts.” (Another experiment found that givers weren’t going for variety for its own sake and only mixed up the selection when there was a difference in the movies listed by the two cousins.)

This research has the faults of most psychology experiments. It draws broad, if tentative, conclusions from a relatively small sample, only 168 participants, and it’s explicitly limited to the U.S. (The authors note that gift-giving customs could affect results elsewhere.) But it rings true. It’s hard to see the world through other people’s eyes — even when we’re buying them gifts.

Read the whole thing.