The more carefully a gift is wrapped, the higher the recipient's expectations – and the greater the risk of being disappointed, warns a new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, asked fans of the NBA team the Miami Heat to participate in the study; These fans, however, were not Orlando Magic fans.
The test subjects received a mug with one of the logos of both basketball teams as a gift; Miami Heat mugs were considered the best gift for these fans. The mug has been carefully wrapped or careless to study the reactions of the recipients. The researchers found that the carelessly packaged mug was the favorite gift, regardless of the team logo on the mug.
In a second test, the researchers showed test subjects an image of a carefully wrapped gift and an image of a hastily wrapped gift. They were asked what they expected of each gift before revealing that the gift was a pair of headphones. The subjects were then asked if the gift met their expectations. The bottom line: Expectations were higher for the tightly wrapped gift, but this gift was considered the most disappointing.
A word of caution, however: Do not try to do this at home. The strategy of carelessly wrapping a gift to lower expectations can be a double-edged sword. It may work well for an acquaintance, but it can be disastrous for a loved one.
In fact, a third experiment revealed that the quality of the packaging shows, in the recipient's eyes, the importance the donor gave to the relationship. Well-wrapped gifts suggested that the relationship was important to the donor, which increased the likelihood that the gift would be appreciated.
In other words, the researchers said, if you don't think the gift is so good and try to make it more attractive with lazy packaging, you can backfire. Instead, it is worth wrapping a gift carefully for a close friend who will see it as a gesture of the importance you attach to your relationship.