Christmas shopping & misconceptions in gift-giving

Tabitha Gan is undergoing internship at the Science Centre Singapore (SCS) in December 2014. She has written this blog post during her internship at SCS.

Meme credits to snajath from

Imagine this scenario. Your friend, relative or spouse knows you haven’t gotten their birthday gift and passes you a list of items that they would like to have, which are all within your budget.

Would you a) follow that list and get them something they requested, or b) get them something else outside the list that you think they would appreciate?

If you are like most people, you’d choose option b, probably assuming that the effort you took to pick out an appropriate gift would be appreciated greatly by the receiver. Well, two researchers actually found the opposite effect- while you think you’re being considerate, the recipient would usually think the exact opposite– that you’re being inconsiderate instead.

Recipients actually showed a higher appreciation for gifts from their wish-list and perceived the giver as more thoughtful and conscientious than if the gifts were not from their wish list.

Strange, huh?




u kidding me?




We tend to assume our thoughts and intentions are more transparent than they actually are, and overestimate the extent to which people share our views. So when someone hints strongly that you should get them certain items for Christmas…you know what to do.

The brain is an extremely complex organ and is prone to inaccuracies in memory and perception. This is just one of many different aspects in which how our flawed perceptions can wrongly affect our decision-making choices- come visit the Science Centre’s newly opened Brain exhibition to find out more about how your brain works.

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