The Best (and Worst) Holiday Gifts, According to Science

best gifts holiday season worst gifts

Best gifts for the holiday

‘Tis the season—of scrambling to finish your holiday shopping before the big day.

If you’re still looking for some last-minute holiday gifts, there’s a better way to find inspiration than scouring gift guides and mall displays. Here are four types of gifts that, according to science, you should give this year —and three you shouldn’t.

Don’t: Splurge on something flashy.

It may feel like a faux pas to pick a holiday gift from the clearance section, but research suggests it’s the item—not the price tag—that matters most. While gift-givers tend to think their choices will land better if they’re expensive, research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology didn’t back that up. In fact, there was no clear correlation between present price and recipient satisfaction.

Don’t: Give gifts on their behalf.

Making a charitable donation in a friend or family member’s name may seem like the perfect holiday gift: Your spending goes to a worthy cause, and the recipient gets a gift they feel good about. A 2015 study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decisions, however, poked a hole in that theory. While close friends or family members may appreciate a socially responsible holiday gift, researchers found that casual acquaintances often feel slighted by them, potentially because the selection focuses “on the symbolic meaning of the gift,” rather than on the recipient herself.


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