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Gift Tips to Inspire Gratitude and Generosity

A new report offers gift-giving tips to inspire gratitude and generosity. (Pixabay)
A new report offers gift-giving tips to inspire gratitude and generosity. (Pixabay)
November 28, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY — People feel more grateful for memorable experiences than for material objects, new research suggests. And those feelings of gratitude also lead to more generous behavior.

People did make positive comments about the stuff they bought or received, explained study co-author and psychology professor Thomas Gilovich, but they didn’t express gratitude as often as they did for experiences - gifts such as concerts, dance lessons or dining out at a good restaurant.

"So, if you want to give a gift that really makes someone happy, there's a lot of things to choose from,” Gilovich said. "But again, think twice about maybe doing an experiential gift over a material one. It might pay off even more."

And he said the feeling of gratitude has been linked to increased happiness and social cohesion, better health outcomes, and even improved sleep quality.

Researchers studied 1,200 online customer reviews and found that the vast majority of people who used the word “grateful” had purchased experiences rather than material items such as electronics, furniture or clothing.

The study suggests that experiences tend to help people appreciate their own situations and trigger fewer social comparisons. Gilovich pointed out that it can be hard to resist the urge to "Keep Up with the Joneses" if a neighbor buys a better car or computer than yours.

"We do that with experiences, too. If you went on some sensational vacation, I wonder a bit about mine,” he said. "But I wonder less than I do for material things."

Experiential gifts can also create a positive ripple effect, Gilovich observed. In a study involving an economic game, players thinking about a meaningful experience were more generous toward others than when they thought about a material purchase.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT