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Giving the gift of an experience can lead to stronger bonds

Rusko performs at the Hollywood Palladium.
Rusko performs at the Hollywood Palladium.
Justin Wise via Flickr Creative Commons

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What do you get the person who has it all? 

What's the perfect present for a loved one who's desperately trying to cut back on clutter? 

An experience as a gift, of course!

Turns out these sorts of presents can have other benefits. For more Alex Cohen spoke with Cassie Mogilner Holmes, associate professor of marketing at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Holmes did a study on experiential gifts instead of a physical gift. The study is titled "Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Social Relationships than Material Gifts."

On the findings

"We measured it from the gift recipient's perspective. What we found was that gift recipients who received an experiential gift — that's an event that they lived through such as concert tickets, going out to a meal at a restaurant, going to a movie, going on a vacation — those gifts made the gift recipient feel closer and more connected to their gift giver than had the gift giver given them a material gift. "

What kind of experiences are best?

"We looked across the board with the primary comparison between the experiences and the material gifts. But if looking for inspiration for experiential gifts, we looked at whether those experiential gifts that folks received and those included in addition to the ones that I mentioned, a gift certificate to a restaurant, concert tickets, theater tickets also music lessons...Also, exercise classes, which is an easy one.

I will point out that as we're seeing the final day for Amazon to be able to deliver your gifts by Christmas, fast approaching, the good thing about experiential gifts is that actually there isn't that same delivery date..."

Is it okay to give a present where you have the experience together, or is that considered selfish? 

"It's not considered selfish at all. Actually, it in itself has its own benefits because a lot of research including some of my own shows the power of spending time together. And so, instead of it being framed as you giving yourself a gift... it can be heightened by framing it as sharing this experience together and you giving your time.

But I will point out that actually we found that the benefit of receiving an experiential gift does not require the gift giver to share in the's almost this vicarious spending time together."

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full interview, click the blue play button above.