Now I can justify my terrible attempts at Christmas wrapping!
The pleasure of watching someone unwrap a gift has made a multi-million Pound industry out of gift-wrapping supplies. This pleasure means we attempt to make the gift look as presentable as possible, with paper, boxes, ribbons and bows.
My attempts at gift presentation have been pretty hopeless. I haven’t even started wrapping at the time of writing (I’m hoping Mrs W has enough paper leftover).
And now I have academic justification for my hopeless attempts at wrapping.
The recent study “Presentation Matters: The Effect of Wrapping Neatness on Gift Attitudes” concluded that the more neatly wrapped a gift is, the higher the expectations of the gift inside.
And an immaculately wrapped gift raises expectations beyond whatever the gift inside can deliver!
By contrast, gifts that were not as well wrapped tended to reduce expectations, such that whatever was inside tended to be better received (whether it was a gift they wanted, or not).
In other words, the neatness of gift wrapping itself appears to be used as a cue for how good the gift itself is anticipated to be.
Neat wrapping sets the bar dangerously high, while the sloppily-wrapped gift is more likely to lead to a pleasant surprise!
It does depend on the relationship between giver and receiver; when gifts come from close friends, a sloppily-wrapped gift tends to be more positive (surprises to the upside). But with a more distant acquaintance, neat wrapping is still important (as it’s used not as a reflection on the gift inside, but a reflection on the relationship with the gift-giver, such that a sloppily wrapped gift to a distant acquaintance suggests that the giver doesn’t care about the acquaintance!).
So, it turns out that, for people you don’t know well, you should wrap your presents nicely.
But, happily for me, it’s OK to give sloppily wrapped gifts to friends and family.
With thanks to Michael Kitces for the inspiration.