How to Choose a Gift According to Science

5 Proven Ways Not to Screw Up Your Next Gift

January 16, 2017: According to a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, we’ve all got gift-giving backwards. The research claims that we tend to give gifts that are more pleasurable for givers to give, rather than to give gifts that are pleasurable for the recipient to receive.

The study states that givers want to impress the recipient at the moment of giving. This is probably even more true on holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, when wowing with gifts are the norm. According to the study, gift recipients want to receive things that “provide value over time,” which is in direct opposition to the instincts of gift givers.

Naturally, in gift-giving, the focus should be on the recipient, since the gift is intended for them and not for the giver. However, this doesn’t change the fact that gift givers want to enjoy the feeling of giving a wildly stunning gift that lights up the face of the recipient, especially on birthdays and Valentine’s Day.

So what kind of gifts can make both the giver and the receiver happy on holidays, birthdays and all year round? To answer that question, Couponbox put together the following list of tips on how to give the right gift…

…according to science.

#1. Educational Gifts

Almost everyone wants to improve their lives, and education is one of the best ways to do that. If the best gifts are those that provide value over long periods of time, then there is likely no better gift than those that educate. Some popular educational gifts include the following:

  1. Language Lessons – Learning a new language is a surefire way to improve your life, including improving your relationships and career.
  2. Career-building Courses – Speaking of improving careers, if you know the career goals of your gift’s recipient (and you should), enrolling them in a certificate program or online course that will enhance their career or job prospects is the gift that keeps on giving.

#2. Experiential Gifts

According to the recommendations of the Tepper School of Business researchers, experiential gifts are among those that provide the most long-term value. We suggest the possibly life-altering and unforgettable options below.

  1. Nature Tours – There is nature and then there is Nature. A visit to natural sites like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and the Redwood National Park can create memories that will last forever, making for gifts with truly long-term value.
  2. Skydiving – Jumping out of a tiny plane at 10,000 feet will surely be the among the highlights of one’s life, whether you find it exhilarating or nauseating. Get this gift for anyone, and they will never forget it (or you).
  3. Rock Climbing – Nothing says “I love you” like dangling from a precipice by a rope.

#3. Utilitarian Gifts

As the study mentions quite clearly, gifts such as a vacuum cleaner will be well used by and be of long-term value to recipients. But that doesn’t mean we should give everyone a vacuum cleaner. Choose a utilitarian gift according to your recipient’s hobbies, interests and lifestyle, and you’ll be sure to make them happy over the long haul.

  1. Cookware – For the budding or seasoned chefs (pun intended) in your life, choosing valuable gifts for the kitchen is easy. Simply check out their drawers while they’re not looking and get them whatever’s missing.
  2. Home Furnishings – Everyone can use a lifestyle upgrade every now and then. Instead of getting basic home furnishings as gifts like candles or picture frames, give your loved one something more substantial. Give the gift of space with new wall shelves or a standing bookshelf to help them organize their homes and their lives.
  3. Automotive Care – Your car-owning friends and family will love and remember you forever if you get them gifts like a year’s worth of car washes or an EZ-Pass subscription.

#4. Health- and Nutrition-based Gifts

Whether you are a health nut in January as a part of a New Year’s resolution or have health concerns that you must address year round, health- and nutrition-based gifts can provide long-term value for your mind, body and spirit. Try some of these:

  1. Fitness Apparel and Gadgets Wearables are all the rage, as we’ve noted in our own research. Not only do they help keep track of your fitness and health, they can also be quite stylish as accessories and make for great gifts with long-term value.
  2. Personal Trainer – Sometimes we need a bit of external motivation to help keep us in shape. Why not get your health-conscious gift recipient a year’s contract with a personal trainer? Who doesn’t want to wake up at 6am for a run and with a personal trainer who pushes them to go the extra mile? Access to a personal trainer for a year will not only provide long-term value as a gift on its own, but it will also provide value long after the personal trainer leaves by building healthy habits.
  3. Yoga Membership – The health benefits of staying flexible are numerous, and nothing develops flexibility quite like Yoga. A year-long Yoga membership’s value as a gift is two-fold. First, regular access to a Yoga studio can motivate you to keep stretching. Second, after a year of Yoga, your gift recipient will likely have the Yoga poses memorized so that they can do them at home for free. And there’s nothing better than free Yoga!

Of course, everyone has different tastes, so the suggestions above may not work for everyone, but the principal is the same. The most important element in gift-giving is knowing the recipient. That being said, the final gift category on this list is practically universal. It’s almost 99 percent certain that your gift recipient will love…


Which brings us to number five:

#5. Chocolate Gifts

Although chocolate doesn’t give much long-term value (unless one of your long-term goals is to put on a few extra pounds), recent research by shows that Americans spend approximately $21 billion yearly on chocolate and weigh in at number five worldwide for yearly per capita consumption with 12.5 pounds.

Additionally, according to a Couponbox survey, 32.7 percent of Americans associate Valentine’s Day with chocolate, beating out both Easter and Christmas.

However, your chocolate gift doesn’t have to be a box of that brown, bittersweet goodness. Keeping in line with the Carnegie Mellon University research, you can give educational, experiential and even health- and fitness-related chocolate gifts that provide more value over time than a mere box of chocolates.

  1. Chocolate Factory Tour – Couponbox research shows that Hershey’s is the market leader of chocolate manufacturers in the US with 44 percent. Their “Hershey’s Chocolate World” attraction in Hershey, PA is a great gift to give the chocolate lovers in your life.
  2. Cocoa Plantation Visit – For your more adventurous chocolate lovers, you can buy them a trip to one of the world’s top cocoa bean producing countries, Ivory Coast and Ghana. A visit to one of the many cocoa bean farms in those countries would be eye-opening and memorable.
  3. Sugar-free Chocolate – For the health-conscious chocolate lovers out there, there are plenty of options to sate their desire for tasty morsels of cocoa. Russel Stover, one of the top 5 US Chocolate Manufacturers, is the biggest producer of sugar-free chocolate, perfect for anyone watching their figure.

If a chocolate gift is your thing any time this year, be sure to share this article and our beautiful and informative chocolate infographic:

Chocolate for Valentine's Day

To embed the infographic above on your website simply copy and paste the code below:

<p><img src="" title="Chocolate Industry Stats by Couponbox" /></p><p><a href="">Chocolate Industry Stats by Couponbox</a></p>

Steve Cuffari

Steve is a writer, researcher and avid traveler from NYC. His favorite products to save money on are travel, food and beverage and tech gear. If you have any questions or suggestions, just email him: