Ask a stranger

by Karen Topakian According to a study about the usage of holiday gifts, by Jeffrey Vietri, instructor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pa, a stranger is a better predictor of our usage than we are.

This soon to be released behavioral study, “Actor-Observer Differences in Frequency-of-Use Estimates: Sometimes Strangers Know Us Better Than Ourselves,” demonstrates that we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.

“People make optimistic predictions about themselves,” he says. “They expect relationships to last longer, tasks to take less time and things to turn out generally better than they will.” And when they ask for a waffle-maker for Christmas, they think, “I’ll use this all the time!”

Vietri’s 164-person study determined that an informed stranger, one who didn’t know the participant personally, but who is told how often the participant predicts they will use a much-desired Christmas gift assessed the participant’s actual usage with greater reliability than the participant’s own prediction.

Before you send your Christmas list to Santa, ask a stranger to review it to see if you really will use that ovulation cell phone as often as you think or wear that those squirrel foot earrings as often as you promised.