The desire to be a good gift-giver often backfires. Here’s a scientific breakdown of what many of us get wrong about gift-giving and how to get it right:

Myth: Gifts should dazzle

Reality:

Instead of focusing on the “wow” factor in the moment of exchange, choose a gift that will be useful. Novelty wears off quickly. These gift misfires usually end up in the back of a closet.

Myth: Gifts should surprise

Reality:

Although you may feel inclined to go the extra mile and get the person something they hadn’t thought of – stop. There’s a reason they made a registry. Thought goes into a wish list. Give the person a vacuum cleaner if they want one, not a gift that you think they might want.

Myth: Gifts should be tangible

Reality:

While givers typically opt for material gifts like a sweater or an iPad, research shows that the best gifts don’t always require a bow and wrapping paper. Giving experiences like tickets to a concert to see their favorite band perform or a certificate for a nice dinner out will result in more enjoyment later on.

Myth: Gifts should reflect the recipient

Reality:

If you don’t know the person all that well, resist the temptation to tailor the gift to suit their unique taste. For instance, if your co-worker likes cats and you’re her Secret Santa, giving her a gift card to the local pet store might seem thoughtful to you but it will be less useful to her. Give her an Amex gift card that she can use anywhere instead.

Myth: Gifts should be expensive

Reality:

In an attempt to show thoughtfulness, givers often choose expensive gifts. In reality, price does not predict how much a recipient will enjoy or use it. Making a photo album, knitting a scarf, or baking a batch of your famous cookies doesn’t cost much but the value is priceless. As the old saying goes, the best gifts come from the heart, not the store.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman