The History and Psychology of Gift Giving
Gift giving has been a long tradition that dates back thousands of years as far back as man can remember. As human beings, we are social creatures who enjoy each other’s company and expressing our feelings through the giving of gifts. Whether it is an expression of true love, appreciation of a job well done or just to show our gratitude for having someone as a friend, the giving of gifts is engrained into our DNA.
To understand why we are so enamored with giving gifts, it is important to go back in time to find the origins of this unique form of expression that makes us so human.
Origins of Gift Giving
The giving of gifts may be one of the oldest of human activities that pre-dates civilization and may go back to the origin of our species. Even in primitive cavemen culture, the giving of gifts was fairly common as it was used to show love and affection towards one another. The bestowing of gifts was also inferred as a status symbol when leaders of tribes or clans would show their appreciation for the contributions of those who were part of an important achievement.
Whether it was an unusually shaped rock, a tooth from an animal, the bark from a tree or some other item that was natural in origin, the giving of gifts was certainly common behavior long before we became an advanced civilization. As tools were developed, the gifts started to become more elaborate, for example holes were drilled into animal teeth and stones so they could be displayed on necklaces and many other objects were fashioned as well.
Later during the Egyptian era, gifts were most notably given to their pharaohs who built massive pyramids to store their wealth for afterlife and produced idols to support their beliefs of idol worship. In Roman times people would present each other with good luck tokens, which lasted for centuries and later influenced all of Western civilization onwards. Such tokens of good luck were used as presents to carry favors and show allegiance, which is still the case today.
By the Medieval age, gifts were used to secure the personal favor of the king or show allegiance in times of war. Also, personal gifts of betrothals were given as dowries which ranged from coins to precious metals to a herd of cattle, goats or sheep. In many cultures, dowries and other similar expressions still exist today.
Today gift giving is still part of our everyday culture and defines who we are and the message we want to send with our gift. Gifts are given for all occasions and celebrations and are a means of us communicating with each other and expressing ourselves.
The Psychology Behind Gift Giving
Today, gift giving is spread across all cultures around the world, from celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, offering good luck, best wishes for getting well, showing love and affection, or just saying thanks. Gifts are given to family members, friends, those we work with and even neighbors who receive gifts of all different types. There are large industries dedicated to creating and selling gifts that allow people even in the busiest of times to find the right type of present to give someone for many different reasons and occasions.
The psychology of why gift giving is so rewarding is simple it allows people to connect. The giver of a gift expresses their feelings and emotions by sending a gift with the hope of being able to share these with the receiver of the gift. The receiver of the gift in turn receives the feelings and emotions and with this a connection is made. Making connections with people around us gives us a sense of purpose and feeling of satisfaction. This feeling is one that enlightens the soul and brings out the best in us. There is an old saying “it is better to give than receive” and it has a special meaning especially when the realization of the benefits that it provides to those who give.
Why is it Important to Give Gifts?
There has been a considerable amount of research over the years into the feelings of wellbeing that occurs when we give gifts to those we care about. From as early as cavemen days gift giving has been rewarding which may be the reason it has stood the test of time. Here are some reasons as to why:
We Feel Happy: Simply put, the giving of gifts can make a person feel happier about themselves as well as to the person that has received their gift. In studies were people were asked to give gifts as a part of an experiment, the result was that people actually felt better and happier about their own lives.
Improve State of Mind: Research suggests that giving gifts may improve a person’s state of mind. If giving a gift makes you feel happier with a sense of purpose then this may inevitably improve your state of mind.
Greater Social Connection: By giving a gift, you not only expressing your feelings but building a stronger connection to that person as well. Not only does the person receiving the gift feel closer to the giver, but vice versa as well. This greater social connection also means an improvement in the state of being as well as overall happiness.
It’s Contagious: When a person starts giving gifts, not only will the recipient become more likely to give, those around them who see this act will start giving as well. This is in part due to the release of the endorphins, which not only benefits the giver, but is also felt by those who receive and see the act of giving as well.
ArtisTree offers a variety of creative gift making opportunities during their Holiday Gift Workshops, December 11-21. Click here for a full list of offerings.