This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the Holidays
60-Second Mind

Gift-Giving for Lovers

Research suggests that women don't seem to mind if they receive the less-than-perfect gift. Men, on the other hand, are a different story. Susannah F. Locke reports

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

Don't have the perfect gift for your sweetheart this holiday season? Don't sweat it . . . unless your partner is a man. Apparently, men are more sensitive than women when receiving gifts.

A team of psychologists published the findings this fall in the journal Social Cognition. They surveyed 32 heterosexual couples on their gift preferences. Then the researchers picked either someone's least favorite choice or the perfect present, but made it seem like it was coming from that person's partner instead.

Predictably, men who got bad gifts reacted more negatively than men who got good ones. No surprise there.

But, oddly enough, women showed the opposite trend. Women who got an undesired gift were actually more accepting of it than if they’d received their ideal item.

They launched into a rational defense of their boyfriends. Women saw themselves as more similar to their partners, which the authors use as a measure of relationship satisfaction. And women viewed their relationship as having just as much long-term potential.

But be careful. This study doesn't mean that you should go around buying your lady holiday-themed sweaters and fruitcake. The long-term effects of bad presents are still unknown.

—Susannah Locke

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