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With Christmas looming its ever daunting head around the corner, the question of concern becomes, “what gift should I give to my _______ ?”. It turns out, to no surprise, that science has a definitive answer concerning this important social affair.

People love novelty, experiences that are deeply embroidered with emotions and feel-good vibes have a lasting impact on peoples minds. A material gift is ranked low in terms of novelty and uniqueness. It may have an instantaneous appeal, but it lacks longterm sentiment. The scientific term for this phenomena is adaptation: whether it takes days, weeks or months, any excitement that you feel about your shiny new toy will disappear when given time.

“We adapt to material gifts faster,” says Joseph Goodman, an associate professor at Washington University who studies the effects of giving experiences as gifts. “Whereas experiences tend to be more exciting in the beginning, and we tend to take longer to adapt over time.”

The uniqueness of a experience leaves a lasting impression on the receivers minds. “If I go get you new wearable technology, a FitBit, you can always compare it to a different color, or maybe a different model, or a new one will come out,” he says. “But if I buy you a helicopter tour, it’s kind of hard to compare that to a fruit basket or whatever else you might have gotten. And how many helicopter tours have you been on that you can compare experiences?”

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Experiences tend to involve social participation, this will allow the giver and receiver to gain sentimental bonding through emotions and memories associated with the gift. “Often it’s not that I got you tickets for a play, I got both of us tickets,” he says. “Those are the gifts that are memorable and that really lead to happiness. We’re social beings, so social interactions have a big influence on our happiness.”

Many services are offered to create a experiential gift rather than a material one. UnStuff offers deals on unique experiences for all types of people. Avoid the social cliché of giving physical gifts and reward someone with an experience of a lifetime!

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