The psychology of choosing gifts, and colleges

“How Psychology Can Help You Choose a Great Gift,” published by UC Berkeley’s Great Good Science Center, offers four tips to better gift giving:

1. Choose practicality over expense or quality.
Usable beats fancy in the long run.

2. Go for long-term satisfaction, not initial enthusiasm.
Parents have all seen a child react with joy to a new toy they abandon by the end of the day. Choose gifts that will bring happiness over time, regardless of the initial reaction they inspire.

3. Give people what they’ve asked for.
Surprises might feel more thoughtful than just handing the receiver what they asked for. But the research shows it’s better to just honor the initial requests.

4. Pick experiences over things.
Science has shown that people are happier with gifts of experiences than with material things.

I could bend this to apply to selecting colleges, but that might be a stretch.

Here’s what’s not a stretch: “I’ll go to the most prestigious college I get into, whichever one it is” violates all of them.

Your education is a gift, no matter where you go to college. But it’s worth considering the psychology before you choose which gift of admission to accept.