Most Popular Gifts and Gift Ideas

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So, what types of gifts are popular in today’s society? Research shows that 63% of Brits buy entertainment related gifts like CDs or DVDs, while 57% buy clothing and 47% buy food and drink-related gifts. Other common gift ideas include gift cards, personalised gifts and experiences.

Recent research from the University of Toronto Scarborough reveals that giving an experience strengthens your relationship with the receiver more than a physical gift. This is primarily due to the fact that experience gifts elicit stronger emotional responses while they are being enjoyed. For example, speeding around a go kart track releases adrenaline while massages provide relaxation. Nonetheless, when selecting an experience it’s still important to consider the recipient to make sure you choose something that’s appropriate, which they will look forward to.

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Social Media, Experiences and Gift Giving

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Social media has become a platform that we can use to project our desired self-image, changing the gift giving game as well. If somebody treats their partner to a romantic holiday, there is a good chance that this experience will be shared on Facebook or Instagram. These opportunities for sharing provide ‘social media currency’ and can elevate the giver’s social standing through the picture’s ability to convey their benevolence, or it may very publicly symbolize their commitment and devotion to the relationship.

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Gifting – Types of Gifts

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Selecting the perfect gift can seem like an impossible challenge sometimes. Research from the University of California examined the motivations and symbolism behind the gifts we give and proposed that there are four main types of gifts:

Gifts that are symbolic of the self and of the giver

Gifts that are symbolic of the giver’s knowledge of the receiver

Gifts that are symbolic of the occasion

Gifts that are expressive and contain an array of significant meanings

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Gifting – To Find a Mate

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Most animals give gifts as part of the mating ritual and humans really are no different. One of our closest relatives, chimpanzees, have been documented giving food in return for sex and grooming, while gibbons give gifts to retain existing mates. Research conducted by biologists suggests that as serial monogamists, humans use gift giving to attract and retain mates.

The study found men who were more generous with gifts had better success at attracting and retaining mates both in the short and long-term. Women, on the other hand, were less likely to use gifts for mating purposes and more often gave gifts to family and friends to strengthen social networks.

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Gifting – To Help Others

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Some gifts are given with no expected return. For example, we often give presents to young children that have no way of reciprocating, or even our pets. While it could be argued that these gifts are reciprocated in other ways, altruism could also be at play. Love and appreciation are two of the biggest motivators for altruistic gift giving.

Giving gifts to help others can include donating money or volunteering for a charity. There are several theories that attempt to explain why individuals do this. One theory claims that dopamine-using pleasure circuitry in the brain is activated by charitable giving. Effectively, we give because it makes us feel good.

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Gifting – To Receive Something in Return

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Since gifts represent our desire to build or cement a relationship, they also require some form of reciprocation. Contemporary sociologist Dimitri Mortelmans argues that gift giving creates a “debt-balance”, so to prevent ill feelings gifts must be repaid creating a cycle of gift giving. When reciprocating a gift, it should be of roughly equal value as giving too little signifies that you don’t value the relationship, while giving too much means that you overvalue it and causes feelings of embarrassment.

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Gifting – Symbolic Communication

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Have you been given a gift that has filled you with joy? Or perhaps you’ve been unlucky enough to receive something that left you feeling deflated and upset since it didn’t meet your expectations. But why would this irritate you? It’s the thought that counts and that’s precisely it. When you look deeper into the matter, it’s because we attach symbolic meaning to gifts. This means that a gift you are not overly enamored with can be interpreted as thoughtless in spite of its altruistic motives.

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Gifting – A Way of Showing Love and Devotion

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In one way or another, gifts are used to symbolise love and devotion between two partners, coinciding with the theory of ‘symbolic interactionism’, which argues that people communicate through the use of symbols. For example, what do men typically buy for their partners when trying to express love or devotion? The go-to tends to be flowers since they can be interpreted to symbolise feelings of love with their fragrant beauty.

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