Sunday, April 26, 2009

From the Archives: Relationship Gift Giving

Part of the process of developing and maintaining relationships involves gift giving. Why? There are lots of reasons, I am sure, but here is a very simplistic use of economic tools which offers a compelling explanation.

For simplicity, I will just describe gift giving while courting. Two people, Dave and Diana, are getting to know each other. Dave realizes that he quite likes Diana and would like to keep seeing her. He wants to let Diana know how he feels. He's said it too her, but talk is cheap. Diana has heard how great she is from lots of suitors. Dave wants to strongly signal his interest. What can he do?

He can give Diana a gift. By giving Diana a gift, Dave signals Diana that he is enjoying a large net benefit from being with her (that is, the benefits of the time he spends with her exceed the costs). Dave would not be willing to spend resources signaling his affection if he were only marginally interested. Diana realizes that Dave would not want to spend resources if he were only marginally interested, and thus now trusts that he is really interested (of course there is the looming question about what exactly Dave is interested in, but, for now, assume that Dave is an upstanding young gentleman).

What exactly should Dave give?

This article suggests that he should give "an extravagant gift that has no resale value." This is because "women feel confident that they have found a strong and committed mate when they receive an extravagant gift. And men avoid gold-diggers by giving only gifts that have no intrinsic value."

I agree with this premise in many ways, but I actually have some slightly different views on what kinds of gifts Dave should give. I will save this discussion for class, but feel free to discuss your own thoughts on gift giving in the comments.

I am all for gift giving, but I certainly do disagree with the notion that a gift is required in order to "strongly signal his interest". If a gift is really what the person you are persuing is looking for, you may want to look elsewhere in my opinion.
I think everyone expects gifts from a potential suitor. If I was with someone who nver did anything for me, I'd ask myself why I'm with someone who doesn't take time to think of nice things to do for me. Even if she can't cook and never cooked for me, I'd be like, "Dang, how come this girl has never even attempted to make me eggs or something simple like that, even just once?" She either must not be into me or selfish, or just lazy. Either way, time to move on. Even if I assume I'm rich and money is no object, I agree that extravagant gifts are required to signal a woman you are interested and also make her more interested in you. The most important aspect of the gift must include happy, memorable experiences. This is what people use to evaluate the relationship later when a rough patch come up. A night of good food, laughter, and entertainment has a much longer shelf-life or utility than an expensive necklace.
I think gift giving is effective for sending positive signals b/c a new relationship is information asymmetric. Giving gifts transfers information to the girl resolving the asymmetry.I think thoughtful gifts (not diamonds and LV handbags) is the way to go at the beginning of relationships, so you know if the girl really likes you, or if she just likes the *bling* After trust is established if you got the paper, it's cool to spoil the one u love at times.
I think that an extravagant gift may actually send mixed signals other than simply interest in a long and healthy relationship. Perhaps what the mathematician that performed the study was simply correlation and not causation. Perhaps the majority of women are attracted to financial stability, and a man's ability to present this to them in a somewhat personalized way is all that is necessary to create an impact.
Personally, I think that a gift good enough to show someone that I am interested in a long and healthy relationship would be one that is specifically tailored for her. It would completely depend on the indifference curve/preferences of the girl, which would not rule out extravagant gifts, but would definitely not be limited to such.
I think it depends on situation but mostly I am for gift giving if I am interested in someone and women are definitely pleased with gifts. However, it's difficult to make sure whether someone is interested in me or not even I give an extravagant gift because of sometimes women pretend. Thus, in my case, an extravagant gift does not make sense to make sure relationship. If I want to show my interesting to her, I could give a gift which is not extravagant one, is thoughtful one and it is enough to show my thought. If she likes me too, it is a best gift for both because it's a first gift and memorable.
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