Why do we buy Gifts for friends and family?

Gift giving is one of a few activities that is truly unrestricted by age, gender and culture. Children are trained from birth to give gifts and expect them in return. We have been exchanging gifts with each other for thousands of years. So, what is the psychology behind this widespread practice? Why do we give gifts to people we care about?

Psychologists suggest there are 4 basic reasons for gifting:

  1. As an economic exchange. We give in order to receive
  2. To feel good
  3. To express gratitude and build social connections
  4. To offer something of value to another without expectation of return

There is no “right or wrong” about any of these 4 motivations. In fact, we may experience all 4 individually or in combination. However, they do follow a path from a more self-centered orientation (number 1 being the most) to a more selfless perspective (number 4). While we might guess that self-centered reasons to give are most common, in practice well over 90% of people report that C and D are their most common reasons for giving a gift.

In the final analysis, most people surveyed agreed that the mystery, excitement, and joy of gift giving is highest for them as givers and is almost as high when they are the receiver. As such, gifting is one of those rare practices that represent a “win-win” regardless of the reason.

Of course, it is also important to remember that a gift can be physical and experiential but that’s the subject of another article.


Present-ly is a mobile gift shopping app that collects personalized gift ideas for your friends, family and colleagues, all driven by your mobile calendar. Personalized gifts from Amazon, Etsy, Groupon and little and large unique online stores from around the world are delivered as options to choose from to your mobile device, along with relevant reminders to let you know there is a special occasion coming up. In addition to tangible gifts (those things you give in a box or basket), we are curating experiences to gift to your loved ones.

Justin Radeka