If you want to give someone the perfect gift for Christmas then it’s better to offer them an experience than a material possession .
That’s the message from new research conducted by the University of Toronto, which looked at how thew relationships between a gift giver and recipient were affected across four separate studies.
“The reason experiential gifts are more socially connecting is that they tend to be more emotionally evocative,” said Cindy Chan, an assistant professor at the university and a co-author of the study.
“An experiential gift elicits a strong emotional response when a recipient consumes it – like the fear and awe of a safari adventure, the excitement of a rock concert or the calmness of a spa – and is more intensely emotional than a material possession.”
Published in the Journal of Consumer Research , the study found that 78% of respondents had previously bought material gifts rather than an experience.
“Often the focus is only on whether someone likes a gift rather than focusing on a fundamental objective of gift giving, and that is fostering relationships between giver and recipient,” Chan said.
According to the study, the average household will spend 2% of their annual income on buying gifts for others.
The research also fits into a broader body of research that suggests using discretionary spending for experiences rather than more material possessions. Chan points to honeymoon registries that allow people to buy a dinner, scuba lessons or chipping in on airfare as prime examples.
“People often struggle with the challenge of choosing what to give someone. If you want to give them something that will make them feel closer to you, give an experience.”