Gift Giving Psychology (Part 3): Family Is A Better Investment Than Friendship
By Heath Shive
We've seen that there's a psychology to gift giving. First, we looked at the norm of reciprocity. Then we looked at the "foot-in-the-door" technique.
Today, we look at the science behind the adage, "Blood is thicker than water." Or - as I say it - family is a better investment than friendship.
There’s the old Biblical proverb, “It’s better to give than receive" (Acts 20:35).
But kids will tell you something different – it is way more fun to receive gifts!
There’s a scientific way to maximize your gift-receiving selfishness!
To the science of family and friends!
Gift Giving Psychology
In 2003, psychologists Gad Saad and Tripat Gill performed a study on young adults to determine how much they spent on gifts and also who received the most expensive gifts.
Specifically, Saad and Gill were predicting that the gift's price would correlate with genetic relatedness. In their paper, genetic relation was measured as the value r, where r equaled the amount of shared genetic material.
For example, your parents would have an r value of 0.50, because you share 50% of your DNA with each parent. Siblings would also have an r value of 0.50. Grandparents (r=0.25), aunts/uncles (r=0.25), half-siblings (r=0.25), cousins (r=0.125), step-relations (r=0), and friends (r=0) were also included.
As Saad and Gill predicted, the study results showed that the closer the genetic relation, the greater the gift. Close family (r = 0.50) received $73.12 on mean average. Moderately close family (r = 0.25) and distant family (r = 0.125) received $19.03 and $18.56 respectively.
How Does This Help Me?
Now you know who to invite into your life! If you have to choose between your aunts and high-school friends, it’s better to involve your aunts. If you have to choose between your favorite sibling and your best friend for your maid-of-honor/best man, choose your sibling.
Saad & Gill’s study showed other patterns too:
Saad and Gill’s study is far from exhaustive – it was one study of one group from one city. There are bound to be cultural and individual differences. But compare the results above with your own experience. Pretty close, right?
Who spends more money on your wedding: your parents or college buddies? Who will donate a kidney: your family or your friends?
In “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Boss Hogg once said, “Blood is thicker than water, but money is thicker than blood.”
Scientifically, money is not thicker than blood. Family is always a good investment.
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Saad, Gad and Tripat Gill, “An Evolutionary Psychology Perspective on Gift-Giving among Young Adults,” Psychology & Marketing 20 (2003): 765-84.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.