One More Reason Santa Is Impressive


Not only does Santa manage to fly around the world in a single night, he is very good at choosing gifts. You'd think–since he sees you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake, plus he knows if you have been bad or good–that he would have an edge chosing the perfect gift.

Not so, says a new study out from the Journal of Consumer Research at the University of Chicago, which finds that "familiarity with another person actually makes predicting their tastes more difficult." In fact, says the study:

We frequently have the most trouble understanding the tastes of those we know a lot about. Not only do we feel overconfident that we'll pick something they like, but our tendency to assume that we are extremely similar to the ones we love also motivates us to ignore cues that don't support preconceived notions.

Perhaps not shockingly:

…the couples who participated in the study (all of whom had been dating for at least six months), were more likely to pay attention to feedback about their partner's preferences when they were told they were the attitudes of a complete stranger.

From Tyler Cowen's series on the deadweight loss of Christmas.