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Why it’s so hard to give good gifts
Plus, how long-term biases have changed
“Humans can do immense harm to each other, and humans can do immense good.”
Your presence is a present. It’s supposed to be the thought that counts, but when it comes to gift-giving, lots of us overthink it. A 2016 study explains why. “Many giver-recipient discrepancies can be at least partially explained by the notion that when evaluating the quality of a gift, givers primarily focus on the moment of the exchange,” reads the study, “whereas recipients instead mostly focus on how valuable a gift will be throughout their ownership of it.” In other words, when shopping for a gift, you’re probably anticipating how excited the recipient will be to open it, while they’re thinking about how useful that gift will be down the road. “Givers will prize aspects of a gift that make it seem optimal when initially gifted (e.g., surprisingness, desirability), whereas recipients will appreciate aspects of a gift that make it better to own,” the study explains. If you want to give better gifts, think less about surprise and more about what the recipient will value. Often enough, when we can’t think of the right gift, we resort to buying something expensive. But research shows recipients don’t really care about price. So don’t feel pressured to break the bank, either. (Maybe skip the Gucci wetsuit).
Attitude adjustment. Some of our most intractable social issues are tied to a psychological phenomenon called implicit bias: That is, the subconscious attitudes we hold toward others based on characteristics like race, skin tone, sexuality, ethnicity, age—the list goes on. But a long-term study offers hope that these attitudes can change over time. Over a nine-year period, researchers asked people to take the Implicit Association Test, which measures implicit attitudes people have toward different groups, reports the Association for Psychological Science. This computer test prompts you with certain words and associations, like “young” and “good,” then analyzes how quickly you respond to those associations. “Implicit sexual orientation, race, and skin-tone attitudes have all decreased in prejudice over the past decade,” reported author Tessa E. S. Charlesworth. Put simply, attitudes have adjusted. This wasn’t true across all domains. Bias toward the elderly remained steady, and bias toward overweight individuals increased. But the study still offers hope that seemingly entrenched attitudes can actually shift over time. “This research is important because it shows that, contrary to previous assumptions that implicit attitudes were stable features of the mind or society, implicit attitudes appear, in fact, to be capable of long-term durable change.” You can challenge your own biases and take the IAT here.
Many of us spend our workdays responding to a never-ending stream of emails and texts. We feel stressed out and perpetually behind on our to-do list. But what if there was a better way to work? Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Dec 6: It’s psychologically simpler to see the world in black and white. But reality often comes in shades of gray. In this episode, how our minds grapple with contradictions, especially those we see in other people.
Dec 13: It's hard to see ourselves clearly. This can be especially true when we are confronting a challenge. At such moments, we can start to doubt ourselves. In this episode, the strange psychology of the voice inside our heads that says, "the world may think you are amazing, but you are really just a fraud."
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Dec 9: During the fall semester, professor Alexandra Middlewood began hybrid teaching: teaching some of her students in person and others on Zoom. She was feeling especially overwhelmed one day when a small gesture from a student reminded her of why she loves her job.
You’re running a race and pass the runner who was in second place. What place are you coming in now?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
What is yours to own, yet others use it more?
The answer: Your name
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
Twins recognize each other for the first time. Wonder what they’re saying?
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