Ask Ariely: On Picking Presents, Offering Organs, and Hopping Hotels

January 5, 2019 BY danariely

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.


Dear Dan,

I enjoy giving gifts to my best friend, and I was wondering which approach would be better for strengthening our friendship: giving her big gifts twice a year, on her birthday and Christmas, or giving smaller gifts more frequently?


I suspect that giving smaller but more frequent gifts will do more to reinforce your relationship. The pleasure of receiving a gift lies less in possessing the item itself—which is exciting at first but quickly grows familiar—than in looking forward to it.

A 1987 study by the pioneering behavioral economist George Loewenstein showed that people were willing to pay more to kiss a movie star when they could wait three days, compared with kissing them immediately; they were willing to pay a premium for the pleasure of looking forward to the kiss.

Similarly, if you know that on the first of every month you will get a small gift, you can start looking forward to it and so enjoy the gift days before you get it.


Dear Dan,

My brother has kidney failure, and the transplant wait list for deceased donors is too long to help him in time. So he’s looking into finding a living donor (unfortunately, my blood type isn’t a match).

The risks for living donors are minimal, and the average donor experiences no impact on their kidney function or life expectancy. But kidney donation is a major surgery, and it carries costs—time off work, some discomfort and several weeks of recovery.

What can I do to encourage people to consider becoming living donors?


When people think about organ donation in the abstract, they might not be too eager to volunteer. But they are more likely to act if there is an actual person who needs help. So I would start by encouraging people to do the simple part of organ donation, which is to register as a potential donor. Then, if a patient turns out to match with them, the question of whether to donate will be less theoretical—it will be about helping a particular person.


Hello, Dan.

My family recently took a vacation in Greece, where we stayed in expensive five-star hotels. But I kept wondering if I would really have enjoyed the trip less if we had stayed at cheaper places. We are active travelers who are often away from the hotel. During the day we are swimming, hiking, touring ruins, scuba diving or kayaking. How can I can I get my husband to be happy in a less expensive hotel?


I suspect that it will be hard for your husband to enjoy a three-star hotel when he’s used to five-star hotels. What I would do is focus his attention on the activities you would be able to afford as a result of staying in a cheaper hotel. On your next vacation, plan such a day of special activities at the end of the trip, so that it has the best chance at influencing his overall memory of the vacation. You can use that day as an example of what you could afford if you spent less on accommodations.

And if that doesn’t work, suggest that all of you go camping instead. With roughing it as an alternative, you will most likely end up in a three-star hotel as a compromise.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.