IS THERE any other time of year when good intentions and materialism converge so tightly? The caring, the artistic and the diligent spend their days before Christmas wrapping gifts. Whatever lies inside, their love for the recipients will also be expressed through paper, tape, bows and ribbon.
Then it all goes horribly wrong. New research* into the unwrapping of presents by two professors at the Yale School of Management and one at the University of Miami bravely applies rigour where sentimentality has long ruled. Their paper draws on a half-century of studies by scores of economists and psychologists as well as fresh field trials using hundreds of people from three universities.
The result is, for wrappers, a distressing discovery. Americans spend $3.2bn a year on wrapping paper. Yet their work not only fails to enhance joy, it creates unrealistic expectations that lead to discontent. Gift wrappers may think they are transforming the mundane into the magnificent; recipients seem...Continue reading