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Go Ahead, Re-Gift

Research shows the act of re-gifting bothers the re-gifter more than it does anyone else.

It's that time of year again: The day after Christmas. The holiday-season stress is over; the only thing to worry about now is what you're going to do with that pair of Sauna Pants from Aunt Midge, who, bless her heart, still hasn't grown out of her as-seen-on-TV phase. I'm here to tell you that science says you can just give them away. You're welcome.

As Mark Herman wrote in Pacific Standard back in 2013, a study from researchers at Harvard University, Stanford University, and the London Business School found that "re-gifting bothered the people doing it more than it did the people who had provided the troublesome gift in the first place."

The 2012 study (delightfully titled "The Gifts We Keep on Giving: Documenting and Destigmatizing the Regifting Taboo") included a series of thought experiments in which participants imagined being gift givers and receivers/re-gifters. The authors found that, while receivers thought re-gifting was akin to throwing the present away, givers were much less offended by the idea that their gift was passed on to someone else. That's because givers and receivers differed in their views on ownership of the gift after it exchanged hands. In other words: "Givers believed that the act of gift-giving passed title to the gift on to receivers, such that receivers were free to decide what to do with the gift," the study authors wrote. "In contrast, receivers believed that givers retained some say in how their gifts were used."

There was one exception. The study found you can give away pretty much anything except sentimental gifts—like the lumpy maroon hat Aunt Midge made for you when she was going through her knitting phase. And just be glad she didn't get you a jar of Stem Cell Therapy from the as-seen-on-TV clearance rack. You can't give that away either; honestly I think it might be dangerous.