Not to get all Grinch-y on you, but let’s face it, Christmas can be a complete ball-ache. For every joyous rendition of All I Want For Christmas there’s excruciating social anxiety, constant overeating and the pressure of finding the perfect gift. We all want to give the gift that makes our loved ones happy, but for some reason we always fall back on that scented candle. Every. Single. Time.
However, thanks to new research results released yesterday by the University of Illinois, some of that gift-giving stress can be somewhat alleviated. A team of researchers, led by Lan Nguyen Chaplin, associate professor of marketing at the University, conducted four studies into the happiness derived from both material and experiential gifts.
The results; children under the age of 12 were happier receiving tangible physical presents, whilst those over 12 were much more content receiving an experience, smashing stereotypes of materialistic adolescents.
Chaplin and her team suggest that the reason behind the results are due to memories associated with experiences and an ability to retain those memories.
“Don’t get me wrong. Young children do love experiences,” explained Chaplin. “Entire industries (e.g., theme parks such as Disneyland) are built around this premise. In fact, young children are ecstatic throughout the experience. However, for experiences to provide enduring happiness, children must be able to recall details of the event long after it is over.”
Essentially, the happiness experienced through receiving a tangible object is prolonged as the child is left with a physical embodiment of receiving that gift long after opening it under the Christmas tree. Whereas adolescents and adults are able to value memories created through experiential gift-giving. With age comes appreciation it seems.
However, if you’re still intent on giving your children/nieces/nephews an experience for their next birthday, Chaplin’s research did uncover ways to add value and happiness to the recipient.
“Take pictures or videos of family walks, playing in the snow, and birthday parties,” she offers. “Children are likely going to appreciate those experiences more if there is something to remind them of the event. Additionally, they’ll be able to learn the social value of shared experiences.”