Researchers say that this phenomenon creates a more meaningful bond between the giver and receiver.
Credit: Bryan Gardner

The next time you're wondering what to give as a gift for your friend's birthdaybaby shower, or holiday party, consider this too: treat yourself! At least that's what researchers suggest.

The study, recently published in the "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin" at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, found that gift recipients ended up happier if they knew their gift-givers bought themselves the same thing. The study's authors, both marketing professors, Evan Polman of the University of Wisconsin and Sam Maglio of the University of Toronto - Scarborough coined this phenomenon, "companionizing."

"It's about creating a special and more meaningful bond between the giver and receiver," Polman tells Martha Stewart Living exclusively, explaining that companionized gifts are like parts of a whole. "We were inspired by the idea of friendship bracelets, and how you would exchange them with someone to create a shared experience."

Credit: Bryan Gardner

Surveying hundreds of participants nationwide, the study asked each to rate a variety of gifts, from wool socks to headphones. Participants were then asked to rate gifts that came with a card saying, "I hope you like the gift. I got myself the same one too!" Scores for the latter ranked higher.

These findings also rang true in cases where the giver and receiver were not related, or even close friends - proving that this can work to help foster a new friendship! However, the study found that the phenomenon fails if you gift an item, but have already had the same one for a while. True companionizing takes place when both the giver and receiver experience the gift for the first time, at the same time.

"Nowadays, it's getting harder to give gifts. You can order almost anything online, and there are so many more options!" says Polman. "[Companionizing] makes a gift more special, like the giver is trying to communicate something: 'I like this, and I like you. So maybe you'll like what I like."

Feeling inspired? Watch here for five simple yet thoughtful do-it-yourself gift ideas:


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