We usually think of presents as revealing how well you know a person. There are definitely right and wrong things to give as gifts. But a new study offers insight into what you choose might say about how you attach to people.
Researchers at Baylor University wanted to figure out more about social projection, which is how you imagine your friends reflecting your own attitudes, and how it relates to gift giving. They found something surprising: The more secure study participants were more likely to give something they themselves wanted, rather than considering the other person's preferences closely. Those who were anxious in interpersonal settings were "less likely to assume that others share their own preferences and less likely to make choices for others based on their personal attitudes," according to a press release.
"Secure" and "anxious" in this context have slightly different meanings, and don't necessarily reflect temperament. A secure person expects those around them to "be available and supportive when needed," while an anxious person worries or assumes that they need to keep proving themselves. Either way, this may explain why you can get into gift ruts with longtime friends or loved ones.
If you have trouble with picking out presents in general, think about the goals of the gift. Behavioral economists have found that some people care about the big reveal, while others consider how a gift will be used or valued after it's integrated into the giftee's life. Most of all, don't freak out too much. While giving gifts can be as much art as science, don't forget that for many, the effort itself to choose goes a long way.