Saturday, January 1, 2011

The psychology of gift giving - Part 1.

With the festive season winding down I thought it was an opportune time to discuss the psychology of gift giving. This seemingly simple piece of human behaviour is indeed quite complex and fraught with all sorts of twists and turns that one finds in all forms of human communication. And indeed can lead to quite significant distressing feelings and conflict in relationships.

This is the first part of a two part series on the psychology of gift giving.

With all those christmas gifts now having been exchanged one is confronted with that most heinous of human behaviour - Regifting

Now lets face facts, who has never regifted?
Very few will say they have never regifted and those who do are partial to fabrication.

L photo

Someone gives you a gift that is not liked all that much. You keep it and at a later time you give that same gift to someone else as a present. The unstated transaction when you regift is that you thought of a gift for the receiver, you went out and bought it with your hard earned dollars, wrapped it and then gifted it to the receiver. That is the great regifting lie.

What really happened is someone gave you a present that you did not particularly like, you kept it and simply passed it on to someone else at a later time. You save the money because you don’t have to buy it and all the time and effort going into deciding on the present, purchasing it and then wrapping it.

However regifting can be a dangerous thing to attempt as you can be exposed as a regifter and thus suffer considerable shame and humiliation that goes along with such an unmasking. You must make sure the gift you are about to regift is clear of any identifying signs that will show regifting has occurred. If you are regifting a bottle of wine in a carry bag you must make sure there is no little card down the bottom thanking you for something by someone else. The regift receiver may find it and then you are exposed. Some times it may have been regifted half a dozen times and the people mentioned on the card are completely unknown to you.

All OK

Regifting a book can also be hazardous. You must make sure the gift giver has not written a little message to you somewhere in the book. You must check more closely than just the cover page. Sometimes the gift giver may suspect that you will attempt to regift it and write a note to you in a less obvious place. Or if you simply want to stop any attempt to have your gift regifted later simply write your loving little statement obviously on the cover page and that will stop any subsequent regifting.

Then one can simply forget who gave you the gift in the first place, especially if you regift on a large scale. And you regift back to the person who gave you the gift in the first place. If they recognize such a thing then you have been found out as a regifter.

As I mentioned before regifting can lead to embarrassing and painful feelings by all concerned. So what do you do if you discover that you have received a present that has been regifted?

An ominous question forebodes - Do you expose the regifter? My wise counsel to such a person considering such a question is to recall the words once said by a very wise man.

He who is without sin cast the first stone.

1. If you have regifted in the past how can you live with yourself if you now expose someone else as a regifter.

2. If you expose a regifter as the heinous individual she is, that leaves you open to subsequent exposure as a regifter in the future. Should that happen then ones sense of shame and humiliation at such exposure is magnified ten times as you painfully fall from the high moral ground upon which you have placed yourself.

Coffin fall
Be careful you don't end up like this.

On that biblical note here endeth Part 1.



  1. I have regifted wine more than once. Also made sure that little tag was removed just as I stepped out of the car.

    However, I wish I had it in me to regift some really hideous things that have been given to me. Some sit in the back of a cupboard. They are actually too awful to regift. I have broken something "accidentally" that was an ugly gift.

    My sister in law used to give me the most stupid gifts. I mean, really corny (clown toys to sit on my bed to put my pj's into etc.). One day I had to say to her that perhaps we should give each other a wish list now that we were older. Since then things have improved.

    If someone wants to regift a Picasso over to me - well, no crime in that is there?

  2. Hi Linda,

    I also was given a bottle of port some time ago that I have thought of regifting but it is just too horrible to give. It was highly likely a regift to me I think. I must just throw it out.

    Picasso? Yes that would be good but all the good gifts don't get regifted do they. I kind of imagine that there is this mass of dud gifts out there that are simply repeatedly regifted over and over. They just circulate around and around between people.

    You picture does look good and suits the posting as you say.

    Happy new year


  3. We received a crystal bowl as a wedding gift. On the inside of the box, we found a note to the people who gave it to us...and underneath the bowl, ANOTHER note to someone else entirely!!

    Honestly, my new husband and I just laughed and laughed. We never mentioned it. We just used the lovely bowl and had a good chuckle over the whole thing!

  4. So what was wrong with the Port?

    Or how about getting the same gift from the same person two years in a row. My husband has gotten the same candle from his sister for two years - and he hates candles. We've considered gifting them back to her as she loves candles.

    Happy holidays, Tony.

  5. Hello Marie,

    That sounds like a lovely gift to recieve that now has a special story to go along with it that kind of makes it more special! I am glad you are enjoying it.


  6. Hello OLJ,

    I don't like port but the gift giver would not have known that. When I was in university I used to work in liquor stores to earn some money so I know a bit about things like port. The port I was given is usually drunk by alcoholics in brown paper bags on park benches.

    That sounds like a good solution to regift her candles back to her

    Happy new year


  7. I'm a little... kinda don't understand? I always thought that, if a person has given something to me it's no longer theirs to have any say in what happens to it after it has left their hands and vice versa.

    If that weren't the case then... Oh my goodness! If the gift still belongs to the gift giver then i'm actually giving someone elses stuff away - not to mention that the stuff wasn't a gift after all - It was, in actual fact, a lone - something that is NOT a gift at all!

    Oh Tony! - that could make a very miserable time of joy indeed.

    ~hugs~ Happy New Year!

  8. happy new year everyone :)
    if one wants a cool gift they have to buy it themselves.
    in my extended family only kids find presents under the tree - we decided that it is too high bother-to-joy ratio if we do it each to each. Maybe some would find it inhuman but I am really happier left with more money I can spend on my stuff than buying 8 pairs of socks + cosmetics and receiving similar goodies :)

    there are occasions when I must buy some gift anyway - then if I know the person well I try and comply to these: 1) something taht is of interest to the person and 2) better quality or higher price than they would normally use (so when I know that someone likes wines and buys $10 a bottle on a daily basis, he will probable appreciate a bottle of $30).
    If I don't know the person then - well I don't care that much - I wouldn't hesitate to regift some old stock and wouldn't feel bad if it was relayed, either.

  9. I regift. I have even regifted - shamelessly - out of date champagne.
    Only to those I have had to gift out of duty.
    This year was really I'll with flu over crimbo. No cards. No decorations. Few presents. It was great.

  10. And so Ill. I quit the fags. I am pleased not to feel so scummy. I mean not to be looked down as scum no more.

  11. Very interesting topic, Tony. It would be nice if you expand it to - reciprocity in giving gifts and how much gift says of our mutual relation, respect etc. For instance, I was highly disapointed, maybe even insulted, when I recieved some idiotic hair barettes from close friend. It was bday gift, we were mature enough to give more serious gifts and I took her to dinner on that ocasion. Later, when I spoke abt this with my TA therapist she brought up question if I valuate my relation with ppl through material things.
    I believe this would be something interesting to write about, when we talk about giving gifts.
    Happy Holidays :)

  12. I would agree Roses that when you give something to someone then it is theirs to decide what to do with it. I have regifted in my time.

    But regifiting involves a deception, implied at least and I will write about that in the next post.


  13. I like that Zbig,

    Bother to joy, ratio. I think you make some good points about ritualistic gift giving and your two points about gift buying. I will add more about this in the next post.


  14. Hello K,
    Sorry you were ill and are you sure about giving up the ciggies. They are not as bad as everyone one makes them out to be you know.

    Another confessed regifter. Good for you.

    We should start up RA.
    "Hi everybody. I'm Tony and I'm a regifter"


  15. Hello Milena,

    Yes you make very good points and I will write more about it. I don't think I would agree with the idea of you TA therapist about people and material things.

    Maybe we should start a list of the times when I was disappointed / insulted about a gift I was given. As I said above I will make more comment about your points in my next post on gift giving.

    thats a promise you know and promises should be kept or so one is told.