Christmas is only two days away, which probably means one thing — you’re really excited about…STUFF! Whether you prefer the fulfilling joy of giving your loved ones the perfect gift or the good ol’ fashioned rush of coveting physical goods, the climax of a season’s worth of material treasure-hoarding is about to commence.
In this time of reflection, we’re often told (or expected to understand) that giving feels much better than receiving. According to a report from The Science of Us, however, that isn’t necessarily true, because stuff really does make us feel good. A study that took place during the 2014 holiday season generally found — in asking college to quantify how much their gifts enhanced their lives — that experiential and physical presents offered different kinds of psychological rewards, but that getting stuff generally makes us happy.
This idea flies in the face of the values we hold dear during the holidays. We aren’t supposed to be too eager about getting presents, which explains the rising popularity of the “Elf on The Shelf” doll, which parents use to keep their kids from stepping out of line during the holiday season. Apparently this particular kind of materialism suppression is getting out of hand, though: NBC New York reported that a 7-year-old girl in New Jersey called 911 after knocking over her family’s Elf, which is apparently a no-no. She REALLY didn’t want to lose any presents over this snafu.
Honestly, though, that feels like a more appropriate reaction than what the company who makes the dolls, suggests:
“If your scout elf has been touched, you can apologize by writing a letter to Santa, or saying you’re sorry to your elf. Then, please sprinkle a little cinnamon beside him or her before you go to bed; cinnamon is like vitamins for scout elves, and it helps them get back to the North Pole.”
Maybe it’s best not to lean too heavily into the material portion of the holidays, though, because free stuff can be dangerous. It can literally mess with the way you think. This comes from a second study covered by Pacific Standard explaining the “Zero Price Effect,” which basically says that the concept of something being free overrides any qualitative considerations we have about choosing, say, to drink a free cup of coffee from a crappy cafe, or keeping a sweater that’s two sizes too small because it came courtesy of aunt Mabel. I’m not sure if it’s going to work, but this may explain why the NFL is picking up the tab for every player who wants to go see Concussion after it comes out Friday.
Sometimes timing is everything with a gift. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen “Tickle Me Elmo” or “Furby”-level fervor for a single Christmas gift, but there’s something to be said for buying one of the “it” gifts of the season, which in 2015 is either a hoverboard or a drone. On Tuesday night, however, a drone almost ruined professional skier Marcel Hirscher’s holiday season: A 20-pound camera bot came extremely close to crushing him during a slalom run at the Apline Skiing World Cup.
Though it wasn’t a gift, per se, the fact remains; even an extremely cool gift can unintentionally ruin Christmas.
And if you’re reading this and still have gifts to buy before Christmas, than maybe you need to read Lifehacker‘s guide to last-minute gifts you can pick up at the grocery store. You won’t appear thoughtful in the slightest, but, honestly, who really cares? All we really want is free stuff!
Merry Christmas, Internet!