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Could social anxiety make people better gift givers?

Are you a confident person? You may want to stop and consider whether you can be confident the gifts you select are really what your loved ones want. A new study shows that people who are anxious in social settings may be better gift givers than their more confident peers.

“You’d think that secure people with lots of friends and healthy personal relationships would have a better idea of what someone would like as a gift, but that’s not the case,” Dr. Meredith David of Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business said in a press release. “This research shows that individuals who are anxious in interpersonal situations and who have fewer close, personal relationships are better at predicting what a person may like.”

The study reached its conclusions after polling 1,272 people over five separate surveys. It found that those who reported feeling more “secure” is social situations also tend to practice “social projection.” In other words, they unconsciously project their own interests and desires on other people.

More anxious gift givers don’t make the same assumptions based on their own preferences. They’re less anxious to assume they know what others want without giving it plenty of thought.

In other words, social anxiety may actually have an upside, at least when it comes to holidays and birthdays.

“A key takeaway is that secure people (people who have healthy relationships and feel comfortable in interpersonal settings, etc.) should be mindful of their propensity to assume others like what they like,” David said. “Gifts should be thoughtful, and securely attached folks need to take caution when selecting and buying gifts. Importantly, these individuals should strive to put their own preferences aside when considering what others may like.”

The study goes beyond just helping people choose better birthday presents. It could guide marketers as well.

For example, online retailers that list a selection of their products as “good gifts” may be more likely to lure confident gift givers who shop at their store. They may assume that their giftee will like the same stores they do.

The research could also guide hiring managers when selecting candidates for certain roles, David said.

“For example, it is not uncommon that marketers and salespeople must predict preferences of the customers, at least as they relate to new products, pricing promotions etc. Sales and product development positions may be better suited for anxiously attached individuals; whereas financial, technical or market research positions may be a better fit for secure individuals,” she said.

The study has been published in the journal Psychology & Marketing.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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