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being in the role of a giver versus in the role of a recipient has a powerful influence on our perception—it leads us to focus on different things.
In one study, Steffel found that givers tend to focus on someone’s traits, which can lead them to choose more specific, personalized gifts. These are less versatile compared what recipients actually want.
In one experiment, givers chose whether they would give a friend a Visa gift card or a gift card to their friend’s favorite store. The receivers were more likely to want the Visa gift card than the givers were to select that as their gift of choice.
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In a 2014 study, Steffel and colleagues conducted six experiments on gift-card giving. In one, they asked college students to give a $25 gift card to one or two friends: one friend at the same university, or that friend at the same school and another from another university.
A 2014 paper describes four experiments showing how people actually use gift cards. 100 Amazon employees were asked to use cash or a gift card to pay for a practical book on taxes or a new novel by their favorite author.