When It’s OK to Regift

LiveScience.com

If you think that the practice of "regifting," or giving someone else a gift you've previously received, is rude, you may want to think again. New research suggests that regifting is not as offensive to gift givers as you might think.

Feelings about regifting really come down to a few factors. In particular, researchers found the acceptability of regifting may be tied to the type of gift that is given. In the research, people felt regifting concrete gifts like gift cards and DVDs were more acceptable than regifting symbolic or handmade gifts.

"In our studies, skews in beliefs about regifting arose with both 'good' and 'bad' gifts, but gifts vary on other key dimensions, such as whether they are concrete goods and services or more symbolic gifts that convey love and status," said Francis Flynn, the Paul E. Holden Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business who conducted the research with two co-authors.

Even with items deemed acceptable for regifting, there is still a disconnect that exists between gift givers and those who receive gifts. The researchers found that gift receivers feel that regifting a gift was offensive, but gift givers say regifting is not as offensive as those may think. Those that receive gifts think that regifting is akin to throwing a gift away, but gift givers disagree with that sentiment.

That disconnect also grows from a misunderstanding about gifts between gift givers and those that receive gifts. Simply put, those receiving gifts feel that gifts come with strings attached, which makes them harder and more offensive to regift. However, gift givers also disagree with that sentiment.

The researchers say that people should communicate their feelings about gifts in order to improve feelings about regifting, which could help to improve feelings about the acceptability of regifting.           

"On a practical level, our results suggest a simple solution to increase regifting," said Flynn, who conducted the research with Gabrielle Adams of London Business School and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School. "Givers should encourage receivers to use gifts freely, perhaps even telling them that passing the presents along would not be offensive. This would not only increase gift-recycling behavior, it would also reduce unnecessary guilt experienced over such behavior."

The research was published in the journal Psychological Science.

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