Friday, January 01, 2010

A justification (rationalization?) for gift-giving

I was just struck by the realization that I value providing specific experiences to people. Yes, I could give simply give my friend $5 – but I much more enjoy buying him a graph-paper notebook for his song lyrics, laundry lists, and engineering diagrams. But am I just acting selfishly, paying for the chance to know or say that I contributed or caused these 'wonderful' experiences? Would it be better to simply give $5?

The inevitable feedback-spaghetti of signaling games makes my head spin. What a precarious balance and never really achieved!

[If none of the above makes sense, go read Robin Hanson @ Overcoming Bias. He's always providing great examples of signaling in action.]

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