Couples have many opportunities to exchange gifts. As well as the usual birthdays and Christmases, they enjoy occasions like Valentine’s Day and anniversaries, requiring additional exchanges. According to Gary Chapman, 18% of people consider gift-giving to be their primary love language (source).

Evolution

The perspective of evolutionary psychology is that we, as humans, exist to pass on our genes. An evolutionary psychologist would tell you that for men, gift-giving is a courtship strategy: men give gifts to show that they have resources they can offer to a woman, in an effort to persuaded her to mate with him. The theory explains that women value resources, like money, in men because it’s an indicator that they’ll be a good provider, and protect her and her potential child, resulting in the passing on of both of their genes (source). Psychologists have long made the comparison to baboons, who give food to females in return for sexual access.

The evolutionary theory also explains that men experience paternity uncertainty; a man cannot be sure if the offspring his partner gives birth to is his, or that of another man (source). In theory, women give gifts to pledge their allegiance to their male partners, so they can rest easy at night knowing that the child they’re rearing, does, in fact, carry their own genes.

Identity

Modern psychologists argue that this is primitive, and we are more complex, social creatures than this explanation gives credit for. Gifts can reveal an important secret about a partner; the receiver gains an insight into how the gift-giver sees them, and whether this is accurate or not speaks to the level of intimacy to which that person knows the receiver (source). A gift can say many things, such as how you perceive that person’s identity, what you value about your relationship, and what you enjoy about that person. Gift exchanging can be an opportunity to consider what you bring to your partner’s life, and declare it with a gift. We often consider identifying factors about ourselves and reflect these in the gifts we offer to loved ones (source). It’s clearly an important step in developing relationships, and in therefore developing our own identity.

BOON uses questions which build an understanding of the individual gift giver (like the big five personality traits, discussed in our ‘personality traits and compulsive buying’ blog), to account for these personal identifying factors in a gift. But, we also utilise the modern psychology perspective, by using questions to gauge the relationship between the receiver and gift-giver, to reflect these dynamics in the gifts we recommend.