When you shop for a gift, your recipient observes only what you bought, and not what alternatives you considered.

Why would price matter more to givers than receivers? Dr. Flynn and his Stanford colleague, Gabrielle Adams, attribute it to the “egocentric bias” of givers who focus on their own experience in shopping. When they economize by giving a book, they compare it with the bracelet that they passed up.

But the recipients have a different frame of reference. They don’t know anything about the bracelet, so they’re not using it for comparison. The salient alternative in their minds may be the possibility of no gift at all, in which case the book looks wonderfully thoughtful.

Click through for an excellent article on giving, touching on the potlatch, the gift registry, and re-gifting.