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The science of giving: 5 ways to give better gifts this Christmas

'Tis the season to shop for others! But while giving is a joy, picking out the perfect gift isn't always a joyful process.
/ Source: TODAY

'Tis the season to shop for others! But while giving is a joy, picking out the perfect gift isn't always a joyful process.

So with the holidays fast approaching and little time to waste, what should you do? Turn to science.

The Wall Street Journal collected advice from researchers to discover a no-fail approach to perfect presents.

1. Think of them, but think of yourself, too

Getting a culinary gift for your favorite foodie? Maybe it should tie in to your own favorite dish. Considering something crafty for a crochet lover? A pattern that reflects your style could be the best fit.

That's because, according to a paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a gift that incorporates your tastes is ideal.

"Both givers and receivers report greater feelings of closeness to their gift partner when the gift reflects the giver," the study concluded.

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2. If you go big, don't add a small touch

If you're of the mind that more is more when it comes to gifts, think again! Adding a sweet stocking stuffer as an extra to a premium present just takes away from your big gesture.

Kimberlee Weaver, an associate professor of marketing at Virginia Tech, told the Journal that, without thinking about it, recipients "average the values of the individual components when forming an impression of the bundle overall."

So maybe give the car, but skip the key ring.

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3. Give guys a gift with a connection

In a romantic relationship with a man? Be careful what you give him.

A 2008 paper called "The Gift of Similarity: How Good and Bad Gifts Influence Relationships" points out that while woman don't mind getting a dud gift from a dude, it doesn't work out the other way around.

Men felt "less similar" to their partners when the present didn't hit the mark. So Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, told the Journal that it's best to theme the gift to a common bond.

"If you don't share much but skiing, go for the skiing-related gift," she said.

4. Charity begins (and ends) off the gift list

A thoughtful charitable contribution is definitely appreciated by the charity, but not necessarily the person whose name it's given in.

A paper in the journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes looked at how people felt about charity gifts, and while many liked giving them, most folks preferred getting anything else.

Study co-author Lisa Cavanaugh told the paper even "really mundane tangible gifts" ranked better than donations.

5. But whatever you do, do give

The real gift you give during the holiday season is the one you give yourself — just by giving.

Multiple studies, whether looking at children or adults, prove that's where the real joy lies.

People "are happier spending money on others than themselves," Lara Aknin, a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University said.

Check out the full story at the Wall Street Journal to learn even more about the science of giving.

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