The Psychology of Gift-Giving: Why Gifts Lift Our Spirits

The Psychology of Gift-Giving: Why Gifts Lift Our Spirits

Nov 22nd 2021

It’s safe to say that almost everyone enjoys receiving gifts at some point in their lives. While receiving a gift is a joyous experience, giving gifts can be equally rewarding. Still, have you ever wondered why that is? Read this guide on the psychology of gift-giving: why gifts lift our spirits to see why giving is inherently rewarding for both the giver and receiver.

Social Reward

One of the main reasons that giving gifts makes you feel good inside is largely due to the higher increase of social reward. Many people give gifts because it increases their chances of bonding with a friend or partner. Often, giving gifts reinforces friendships and relationships. It shows that you value that person’s company to the point of symbolic value. Not gifting something to someone may come across as a sign of rejecting or dismissing the friendship.

Inherent Value

Another reason you feel good when giving gifts is due to the inherent value placed on the act itself. Gifts are used to symbolize love, adoration, and devotion between partners. This represents a theory of symbolic interactionism in which symbols and objects express inherent emotions. Symbolic interactionism frames society as a product of interactions between individuals. Gift-giving falls under this realm as an act of interaction, understanding, and shared meaning between two or more people. It reinforces this theory through applied social situations (gift-giving) to further project one’s inherent personality and character (the giver and receiver).


One other reason behind the psychology of gift-giving: why gifts lift our spirits relates to reciprocity. Simply put, people give gifts because there’s a higher probability that they’ll receive something of equal value in return. Sociologists refer to this as a debt balance in which gift-giving repays a previous act of generosity, typically after receiving another gift. Therefore, returning the favor continues this cycle of reciprocation. The debt-balance places value on the gift itself. People give gifts based on their symbolic or material value and expect something of equal value in return. Giving too little or too much causes feelings of neglect or embarrassment for both the receiver and giver.

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