Economics

One More Reason Santa Is Impressive

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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.

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  1. “Santa” and the cult of consumerism has wreaked more havoc on the environment than any war. Enough is enough. How many big screen TV’s and SUV’s do we need?

  2. OK, I give up. I can’t tell the real Dan T. from the fake ones anymore.

  3. This jibes with what I have anecdotally observed: If I can’t get specific hints, I’ve no clue what to get my friends. Fortunately, gift certificates to Amazon are an easy, if completely impersonal, backup.

    Now that the obligatory on-topic comment is out of the way… how hard would it be to implement a voluntary nickname authentication system on this board? That’s actually a rhetorical question, the answer is ‘not very.’ The real question is, will the Reasonistas do it? I generally disagree with everything he posts, but Dan T has really been taking it from an imposter lately. And it’s all good fun while it’s the troll getting hammered, but what if it were, say, thoreau or joe or one of the staff? I’m not saying make it obligatory, but give users the option to associate an auth code with their nick. Hell, I’ll implement it for free.

  4. That first comment sounded like authentic Dan T., Grummun; his MO is to say the exact opposite of whatever the hell the post is about.

    As to the topic, I’m scraping the bottom of the idea barrel this Christmas, in regard to my boyfriend. Our first few Christmases or birthdays together I’d buy him various cool gifts he’d always wanted–an orrery, an antique bar globe, etc.–but now I’ve pretty much gone through the list.

    I fear this may be The Christmas of Warm Socks or something equally lame. Usually I’m done with Christmas shopping by now, but all I have are a few stocking stuffers and (ugh) Useful Things.

  5. Having an ID system isn’t very libertarian, now is it? Hell, while were at it we should be forced to submit our social security number and a copy of our driver’s license if we want to post here. Maybe a retina scan somewhere down the road?

    Oh wait, since it’s not the government it must be ok.

  6. Conspiracy theory:

    Dan T. has a number of sock puppets all named…. Dan T.

  7. I’m pretty sure that I need more big-screen TVs and SUVs than I need Dan Ts.

  8. he sees you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake, plus he knows if you have been bad or good

    Yep, just like Jesus.

  9. I’m scraping the bottom of the idea barrel this Christmas

    I’m thinking of giving little gingerbread houses made of those plastic gift cards. You can simultaneously claim “I made it myself!” and give something totally impersonal.

    I guess that’s why I’ll be lonely at Christmas once again. 🙂

  10. …the couples who participated in the study (all of whom had been dating for at least six months),

    IMO people who have been dating for six months are still at the stage where they think of the other partner as the person they have been looking for all their life, not the person he or she really is.

    After thirty seven years I think I’m finally getting a handle on what my wife would really want under the tree.

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