That’s a big assumption … and, in my experience at least, far from reality.

Let me just challenge that: do you think people receiving a gift have no regard for what they’re likely to do with it? And do you think people giving gifts should not pay any attention to any utility the recipient might or might not derive from it?

In my experience, the purpose of a gift is to (re)afirm care/respect/kinship/gratitude/any number of things that have nothing to do with the economic value of the gift in question — it’s the thought that counts.

Certainly, but that does not preclude it having utility to the recipient. Note: I am not saying that the monetary value is necessarily a good guide. A crappy drawing can be a very good gift, and an expensive watch a very poor one.

Would a bottle of wine be a good gift to someone you know to be a teetotaller? A CD of a Verdi opera to someone who only likes death metal music? I think the thought means actually also thinking about whether the recipient will appreciate the gift. In particular, it’s not because the giver would like it that the recipient would too (remember the Simpsons episode where Homer’s present to Marge on her birthday is a bowling ball with his name on it… :-))

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Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius

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