Study: People will love a gift more if it's poorly wrapped

A recent report by the Journal of Consumer Psychology found something that will save gift-givers a lot of money and time this upcoming holiday season.

"Presentation Matters: The Effect of Wrapping Neatness on Gift Attitudes" was published on Oct. 11 after the authors of the study — Jessica Rixom, Erick M. Mas and Brett Rixom — wanted to learn more about the effect of gift wrapping on the recipient's expectations and overall attitude toward the present inside.

They found that close friends and family are more likely to dislike a gift when it's wrapped perfectly.

In the experiment, each participant was given a gift that was wrapped either neatly or sloppily. The researchers had found out in advance what each participant's favorite sports team was, so they had control over whether the gifts they opened were desirable or not. Participants were then asked to answer an extensive set of questions about the wrapping presentation so that it was clear each person knew that they had a nicely wrapped versus poorly wrapped present.

Then participants were asked about their expectations of what was inside.

After everyone opened their gifts, they were then asked to rank how they felt about the gift. The results showed the people who said they'd received poorly wrapped gifts and opened up a great gift inside (a mug with their favorite sports team logo) recorded that they felt "pleasantly surprised," while those who had nicely wrapped gifts with a gift they didn't care much about (a mug with a different sports team logo) recorded feeling that it missed their expectations.

Coauthor Jessica Rixom, a marketing professor, noted, "When we receive a gift from a friend, we use the wrapping as a cue about the gift inside and form expectations. If it's wrapped neatly, we set high expectations, and it's hard for the gift to live up to those expectations."

This is supportive of what the study calls the disconfirmation theory, where people's expectations of something like a present can impact their satisfaction after finding out what the gift actually is. For family and friends, great wrapping is more likely to let them down when they open the present.

On the other hand, the research found that acquaintances — people like coworkers or neighbors — do actually judge the gift by its wrapping. This is because in a more ambiguous relationship the recipient takes the wrapping as a cue about how the gift-giver feels — instead of the gift itself.

Watch the GeoBeats video above to learn more about the study.