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Biology, Psychology, Sustainability, Uncategorized

The science of gift giving

Today is giving Tuesday, this week marks the days of Hanukkah, and tomorrow is the first day you might get to crack open an advent calendar on the way to Christmas. There may be other events and cultural or religious celebrations happening as well, feel free to comment if you know of or celebrate one. The point is that there are a number of reasons people give gifts, money, and time during this time of the year.

Therefore, most gifts given and received at this time of the year are classified as occasion-based gifts. This, it turns out, means that the gift receiver tends to have higher expectations (Givi & Galak, 2021). While givers underestimate the positive reactions to non-occasion-based gifts (Givi & Galak, 2021). So, while many of us are in “the season of giving” you may want to consider saving some resources for some unexpected gifts throughout the year.

Giving, presumably at any time, can impact our health. Lazar and Eisenberger (2021) found that giving to others helped reduce heart rate and blood pressure after a stressful event. Particularly interesting in this study is that receiving a gift did not show any benefits after a stressful event.

If you want to give more Barraza, McCullough, Ahmadi, and Zak (2011) found that having elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin leads people to donate 48% more. We all have hormones and we’re all influenced by them. Some of them, like stress hormones, help us survive potentially life threatening situations. But others, like oxytocin, help us build bonds with other people. What is interesting about this research is that oxytocin levels don’t just impact interactions with people you know, it impacts your willingness to help people and causes you don’t know. So, if you’re planning on giving at all, you may be able to increase your gift if you do something to increase your oxytocin levels before you give. This can include spending time with someone you care about, or even stroking a cat or dog if you have the option.

I’ve written before on this topic. If you’re interested feel free to check out:

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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