Does decorative gift packaging enhance a recipient's excitement?
Giving and receiving gifts is a hallmark of the holidays. You probably remember being a kid and feeling the excitement of unwrapping presents. As we become adults, the wonderful tradition of gift exchanges continues amongst friends and family, though perhaps with a bit less fanfare.
Overtime, it’s easy to become a bit more complacent with gift giving. We may put less thought into the gifts we give, and particularly the packaging in which we give them. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Maybe.
Could one key to keeping the excitement of gift giving alive be the wrapping? We could see it going either way. On the one hand, wrapping gifts in a decorative box or bag is a tradition. But in a previous experiment we found that color doesn’t always make us like something more.
To find out whether decorative gift packaging ignites our excitement for gifts, we ran a simple experiment.
We recruited 400 people from Amazon Mechanical Turk to participate in a vignette study (i.e., a hypothetical scenario) about receiving a gift from a friend that comes in either a plain brown paper bag or a colorful gift bag, randomly assigned.
Participants were told to “Imagine a friend of yours comes to visit during the holidays and says they got you a gift. They hand you the bag pictured below. (The item in the bag will be part of the next scenario, on the next page).” Participants then viewed one of the five images below, randomized equally.
Participants were then asked, “How excited are you to open this gift? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Extremely)” using a 1-7 scale.
An independent samples t-test revealed no significant difference in excitement when our hypothetical gift was illustrated via plain brown paper bag (avg. = 5.44) versus a colorful gift bag (avg. = 5.61), (p = 0.191). The figure below presents these results graphically. There were no significant differences between the colors of bags, nor were there any interactions with age or gender.
It looks like gift recipients might not care so much about what’s on the outside. But do we care about what’s on the inside? More specifically, do we care about how expensive the gift is, or is it truly just the thought that counts? Check out our next experiment to find out.
Daniel Brown is an award-winning researcher, social scientist, and founder of AB Labs. He holds a doctorate in Management from Harvard University and has conducted over 100 randomized controlled trials in social psychology.