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Who Can Blame Someone for Doing a Little Recycling or Regifting?

Update Date: May 09, 2012 12:59 AM EDT
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Who can blame someone for doing a little recycling, or as it is commonly known, regifting? Not the person who actually gave the original gift, despite what a regifter may assume.

Researchers from Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Harvard Business School and the London Business School explored the question of regifting, a social taboo, from the perspective of both the original giver and the receiver who may or may not rewrap and regift.

“Regifitng isn’t bad,” said Gabrielle Adams from the London Business School. “In fact it is one way to ensure that gifts are passed along to those who will truly enjoy them. People shouldn’t be afraid to pass along a gift they received to someone else.”

In five studies authors investigate whether the practice of regifting really is as offensive to givers as regifters think. It was repeatedly found that participants who had received gifts and were told to contemplate regifting thought that the original givers would be more offended than givers reported feeling.

In one study, 178 subjects were divided into the roles of givers and receivers. They all read a scenario in which they were asked to imagine that they had recently been given a watch as a graduation gift. Givers were asked to imagine that the receiver had either regfited the watch to a friend or had thrown the watch in the trash. Receivers were asked to imagine that they had either regifted or trashed the watch.

The reactions to each scenario were measured on a five point “offensiveness” scale, which ranged from “very slightly or not at all” to "extremely offended." Those who contemplated regifting the watch or pitching it, were asked to rate how offended the giver would be with either scenario. Givers did the same.

Givers were less offended when they learned that the receiver had regifted the watch than when they learned the receiver threw the gift away. But those who received the gift thought that givers would be equally offended no matter what option they took. They basically equated regifting with discarding.

“The finding that receivers think that regifting is as bad as throwing a gift in the trash was particularly interesting to us, “ said Adams. “Givers thought throwing a gift away would be much worse than regifting it.”

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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