We often give gifts to re-confirm or establish our connection with others, which means that they’re a reflection of both the giver and the receiver, as well as their unique relationship. Giving a gift to someone we care about allows us to communicate our feelings and appreciation for them. In fact, some sociologists think that we only give gifts to people we want relationships with. In his book The Gift, French sociologist Marcel Mauss argues that not giving a gift or rejecting it is essentially a dismissal of the relationship.
In one way or another, gifts are used to symbolise love and devotion between two partners, coinciding with the theory of ‘symbolic interactionism’, which argues that people communicate through the use of symbols. For example, what do men typically buy for their partners when trying to express love or devotion? The go-to tends to be flowers since they can be interpreted to symbolise feelings of love with their fragrant beauty.
Have you been given a gift that has filled you with joy? Or perhaps you’ve been unlucky enough to receive something that left you feeling deflated and upset since it didn’t meet your expectations. But why would this irritate you? It’s the thought that counts and that’s precisely it. When you look deeper into the matter, it’s because we attach symbolic meaning to gifts. This means that a gift you are not overly enamoured with can be interpreted as thoughtless in spite of its altruistic motives.