A gift is, from a psychology perspective, an expression of affection and social connection. Gift giving is often associated with expressing affection and strengthening social bonds. The act of giving a gift can therefore be a way of showing love, friendship or appreciation towards another person.

According to operant conditioning theory, positive reinforcement occurs when the person gives a gift and receives an appetitive stimulus as a result (e.g. a smile, a hug, kind words, etc.). If these consequences lead to an increase in behavior, then there is positive reinforcement.

And now that Christmas is approaching, many people, most, give gifts to conform to social norms and show respect for cultural traditions. For example, this also happens during birthdays or weddings.

The experts of Psychology Buencoco comment that giving gifts can also be a form of emotional self-regulation: by performing generous acts, people can experience a feeling of satisfaction and emotional well-being. This type of generous behavior can contribute to a sense of identity and self-esteem.

“Let’s also remember that gifts often communicate nonverbal messages about how the person giving the gift perceives the person receiving the gift. You can express admiration, gratitude, apologies, or simply wish happiness. Gifts can be a symbolic way to communicate feelings and thoughts that are sometimes difficult to express in words,” they say.

Finally, an exchange of gifts can reinforce the feeling of belonging to a social group. According to Buencoco psychologists, “there is an expectation of reciprocity, meaning that the person receiving a gift may feel social pressure to return the gesture, creating a cycle of exchange that strengthens relationships.”

It is important to note that these explanations are not mutually exclusive and that people may have multiple motivations when giving a gift, depending on the context and their relationship to the person receiving the gift.

Do we like to give gifts or receive them?

From Buencoco they indicate that “people who like to give gifts more may have traits of generosity and pronounced empathy. “They like to make others happy and get satisfaction from contributing to the well-being of others.”

Also, preferring to give gifts may reflect a strong need for social connection and strengthen relationships. The act of gift giving is associated with establishing and maintaining emotional connections, and these individuals may deeply value interpersonal relationships.

For others, giving a gift can be a form of emotional self-regulation. Feeling the recipient’s joy or gratitude can generate positive emotions that contribute to one’s own emotional well-being.

Regarding people who they prefer to receive gifts, they may need validation and recognition. “The act of receiving gifts can be seen as an expression of affection and appreciation, contributing to self-esteem and reflecting a form of self-care and self-affirmation. “Receiving gifts can be a way of taking care of yourself, allowing yourself to enjoy moments of pleasure and gratification.”

For some, receiving gifts is an opportunity to have their tastes and preferences recognized by others. This may be related to the desire to express one’s identity and feel understood.

Why it is good to give gifts

From a psychological perspective, the act of giving can have several benefits for both the giver and the receiver.

1. Strengthen social relationships: Giving is a way of expressing affection and strengthening emotional bonds. This can contribute to feelings of connection and belonging in interpersonal relationships.

2. Emotional well-being: Giving gifts can bring a sense of personal satisfaction and happiness. Generosity and contributing to the well-being of others are associated with higher levels of emotional well-being.

3. Communication of feelings: Gifts can be a symbolic way to communicate feelings that may be difficult to express in words. They can convey love, appreciation, gratitude or apology.

4. Positive reinforcement: For both the giver and the receiver, the act of giving can be a positive experience that reinforces generous behaviors and positive attitudes.

5. Create positive memories: Meaningful gifts can create positive memories that last over time. These events are fondly remembered, which contributes to the construction of a common history.

6. Stress relief: Generosity and expressing concern for others can have positive effects on reducing stress. By focusing on the happiness of others, people often see a reduction in their own worries.

7. Increase self-esteem: Giving gifts can increase the giver’s self-esteem by feeling capable of making others happy. Additionally, receiving gifts can contribute to greater self-esteem by feeling valued and appreciated.

8. Cultivate gratitude: The act of giving and receiving gifts can promote feelings of gratitude. Mutual gratitude can strengthen relationships and contribute to psychological well-being.

The role of anxiety

Giving or receiving gifts can cause anxiety in some people, and this can be due to a variety of psychological reasons.

They assure from Buencoco that there is social pressure around expectations when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, especially on specific occasions such as birthdays, Christmas or anniversaries. Worrying about meeting these expectations can lead to anxiety.

“The giver and receiver can experience fear of judgment from others“The giver may worry about whether the gift will be appreciated, while the recipient may feel anxiety about reacting in a way that is inappropriate for the occasion,” they explain.

Additionally, people sometimes worry about how our gift compares to those of others: “Social comparison can generate anxiety about the quality or perceived value of the gift,” they point out.

Another reason why giving or receiving gifts can cause anxiety is linked to doubts about the appropriateness of the gift or to the fact that the person receiving the gift feels obligated to return the gesture, to disappoint the other with gift.

It’s important to recognize that these worries are normal to some extent, but if the anxiety associated with gift-giving becomes overwhelming or persistent, it may be helpful to explore these emotions with a mental health professional. Open and honest communication between those involved can also help alleviate the anxiety associated with exchanging gifts.