Consumers overestimate holiday gifts, suggests study

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The Independent Online

A stranger can predict how much we will use a new Christmas gift better than we can ourselves, according to a new study published by an American psychologist.

The report, authored by Albright College academic Jeffrey Vietri, suggests that consumers should think twice before asking Santa for the fancy "it" gadget they think they want.

Vietri conducted a study of 164 participants over last year's holiday season, the results of which suggest that excited recipients believe that gifts will be used close to twice as frequently as they actually were. Recipients were asked what they hoped to receive at Christmas and why, and in a follow-up survey in the spring, 59 percent of gifts were used less frequently than the recipients expected to use them.

"People make optimistic predictions about themselves," explained Vietri. "But sometimes the reality of owning an object doesn't quite measure up to our expectations. The cappuccino machine is a hassle to clean, the fancy navigation system is not necessary for most driving, and no one has time to play the new piano."

Most interestingly, "informed" observers, who were told what the gift was and how much the recipients thought they would use it, were able to predict its usage far more accurately than the recipient themselves.

"Overspending and clutter are a predictable result of acquiring something with the mistaken belief you will use the item more often than you actually will," continued Vietri. "Maybe a small step toward solving the problems of savings, clutter and the environment is to consult with others about our purchases and take their prediction seriously."

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