Valentine's Day Science Showdown: Gift Edition

Written by: admin

February 14, 2013 – We’ve all been there, standing in front of a Valentine’s Day display at the shop on the corner, you can feel a cold sweat coming on. The barrage of pink and red is almost too much for your brain to process! You have to make it out of this situation with the perfect gift for your valentine, and of course, you’ve waited until the last possible second to pick something up. The candy seems too sweet. What happens if they have an aversion to nougat? A giant card, perhaps? You decide against it after picturing yourself lugging it home on the bus, plus, it would be too hard to get it past the front door without detection. 

After your senses have had a moment to acclimate to the display, you finally narrow it down to two choices, a sizeable plushy stuffed lion (they do love The Lion King) and a bouquet of flowers that’s giant, but will still allow you to pay your rent this month. Which one do you choose? Well, why don’t you let science help you make that decision! 

Option #1, you choose flowers 
Science Says: Good choice! 

A study from Rutgers University showed that people who gave flowers to another person were generally perceived as successful and caring. Specifically, women who gave flowers were seen as being more appreciative of beauty and nature. While both men and women who gifted flowers to another person, regardless of the recipient’s gender, were perceived as happy, achieving, strong, capable and courageous. Not bad for a gift that won’t break the bank! 

Option #2, you choose to go with the stuffed Simba
Science Says: She’ll treasure it forever! 

Studies show that children can form attachments with physical items, such as a blanket or stuffed animal. Having these items close by may actually lead to lower stress levels in overly stimulating situations, such as a trip to the doctor’s office. But toddlers aren’t the only ones who may love a stuffed antelope! A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Cognition and Culture, asked participants to cut up a photo of a cherished item while the research team monitored their galvanic skin response, a measure of minute changes in sweat production on the skin. More sweat equals a greater level of agitation. 

The study showed that participants went nuts (not a scientific measure) when they were asked to cut up a picture of their beloved childhood teddy bear, compared to cutting up a photo of a box of chalky Sweethearts candy, or a box of giraffe shaped chocolates, also known as emotionally neutral items. 

Moral of the story? Either way, you’ll make your valentine the happiest human in the world. But hurry up, you’re wasting precious time on your computer! 

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.