Women tend to place more importance on gift giving and consequentially provide others with better gifts than their male counterparts, according to research published in PLoS One.
“Our results show that, when it comes to selecting the best gift for others, women do a better job than men and this gender difference is due to the interpersonal interest women have in others,” Monique M. H. Pollmann and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University wrote in their study.
The three-part study was the first to investigate whether there were systematic gender differences in gift selection quality.
In their first experiment, the researchers recruited 61 male-female, male-male, and female-female dyads. The dyads were comprised of family relationships, romantic couples, and friends. These men and women were told to select gifts they themselves wanted along with gifts they thought their relative, partner, or friend would like to receive from a booklet of 30 different gifts.
Pollmann and Beest found that women were more likely to select gifts that the ‘receiver’ had said they wanted. This was the case regardless of whether the women were select gifts for other women or for men.
In their second experiment, the researchers told male and female students to rank ten gift certificates from ten different stores in the order of which they thought a young female would want a gift certificate to that store. Each participant saw a picture of the woman with her name and age next to it, and ranked the gift certificates on a computer program.
Pollmann and Beest again found women were better at selecting gifts. Women were better than men in predicting the target’s actual ranking of the gift certificates. But the researchers also noted this second experiment had a significant limitation, every participant was asked to rank gifts for the same person, who happened to be female.
Using a survey, the researchers also found women tended to care more about social interactions (interpersonal interest) and feel more empathy towards others (interpersonal reactivity) than men.
The researchers addressed the limitation of their second experiment in a third and final experiment. Men and women were asked to rank gift certificates for nine different male and female targets, who varied in age.
The researchers again found that women were better at predicting others’ gift preferences for both female and male targets. They also again found woman scored higher on measures of interpersonal interest and interpersonal reactivity.
“In three studies we show that women select better gifts than men,” the researchers concluded. “This finding was observed regardless of the type of relationship between giver and receiver and regardless of the gender of the receiver. Furthermore, the effect was mediated by differences in interpersonal interest and not by differences in interpersonal reactivity.”
Though women scored consistently higher on measures of caring about social interactions and feeling empathy, only caring about social interactions was associated with better gift giving.
The results align with previous research that found women put more effort in selecting gifts.
“Our studies suggest that this increased effort may stem from the fact that women have more interest in interpersonal issues in general,” Pollmann and Beest explained in the study. “More importantly, we showed that this greater involvement actually translates into better gift giving.”