Christopher Buccafusco, a professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, said holiday gifts can provide a little fun and surprise when unwrapping the gift, but enjoyment rapidly decreases over the next several days and weeks.
"Spending time with family and friends in social settings receives among the highest happiness ratings," Buccafusco said in a statement. "Overall social time is highly predictive of general life satisfaction."
The key to a "happiness-boosting" gift is the sustained joy the recipient feels when anticipating the gift, actually receiving the gift and remembering the experience afterwards, Buccafusco explained.
"Having spent hundreds of dollars on your children, are they any happier on Jan. 20 than they were on Dec. 20?" Buccafusco asked.
To prolong holiday happiness for children, Buccafusco suggests mixing gifts of special toys or games with cards promising afternoons together at the playground, visits to a favorite ice cream parlor or walks together after dinner. For adults, try holiday cards or letters inviting your loved one out to lunch or to visit a favorite museum or nature site together.
"Forget the focus on fancy gifts and must-have toys and find ways to spend enjoyable time with the people you care about," Buccafusco said in a statement.