Mirjam Guesgen

Freelance Science Writer

I am a freelance science writer currently based in Toronto, Canada, with a particular interest in animal welfare.

I love communicating complex, scientific ideas in an engaging, balanced, thought-out and informative way.

"Everything" you need to know about gift wrapping

Picture it: the buildup to Christmas, putting up the tree, eagerly awaiting the gifts that will grace the base of the trunk, waking up on Christmas day and ripping the parcels open. Hidden behind this jovial act, is science: from how much wrapping paper is used, to why you enjoy a wrapped gift more than an unwrapped one, to whether you rip that parcel open or carefully un-tape the ends. Here, I give you a brief overview of "everything" you need to know about the science of gift wrapping.


Part One: Amount

If you're anything like me, your intentions to lovingly wrap every gift are often thwarted by not cutting enough wrapping paper (in which case you have that awkward "naked" strip) or too much (when you end up with a bit of extra cushioning in the form of excess wrap). With the help of the formula below, you're bound to get it right every time:

Length of wrapping paper= 2(length*width + width*height + height*length + width*width)


Part Two: Appeal

After going to all this trouble to wrap gifts, you may be asking yourself "is it actually worth it?". Apparently so! There's evidence to suggest that the same gift is more valued or appealing if it is wrapped versus presented in a plastic bag. Also, the quality of the wrapping paper played a role in how people perceived the gift. A well wrapped present (with coloured papers and matching ribbon and bow) was favoured over a non-traditionally wrapped present (brown paper package with string) and that was better than a present that wasn't wrapped. Personally, I'm a traditionalist and a bit quirky so I think I would have preferred the non traditional!

So why the fuss over the wrapping? People associate wrapping paper with positive events and experiences in their lives and these feelings are then transferred to the gift. Following this reasoning, you could buy an average gift and splurge on the wrapping!


Part Three: Opening

Perhaps the ultimate question when it comes to gift wrapping is: are you a ripper or a careful unwrap-er? Is there any way to predict which type of present-opener you are? The short answer is, not really. It comes down to how much you can delay your gratification on a particular task (rippers have probably skipped to the end of this paragraph where I give you the answer). For example, if you were told you could have one piece of chocolate now or wait ten minutes and you'll be able to have three. Rippers would likely take the one piece now, whereas careful unwrap-ers would wait the ten minutes. 

But, how much you're willing to delay your gratification doesn't depend on factors such as education, occupation, income or ethnic background, making it difficult to predict who will rip and who will unwrap.


So now on Christmas day, you may imagine a series of mathematical calculations, see people reminiscing about good-times-past or get an insight into the psyche of your fellow unwrap-ers.