The Spooky Science Behind Great Halloween Treats

October 24, 2013

iStock_000027926254SmallHalloween is just around the corner, and soon, little goblins, superheroes, witches and princesses will take to the streets in an annual quest to hit the trick-or-treat jackpot.

I was curious if there was any information out there on the “best” and “worst” Halloween treats. After all, what you give can either make you a neighborhood favorite, or the Halloween Grinch. A quick search revealed this fun Huffington Post piece from a couple of years back and outlines what treats to give and avoid.

The idea of trick-or-treating is a perfect example of the asymmetry between gift givers and recipients. All gifts – even Halloween candy – have two components

1) Objective value

2) The symbolic meaning of the exchange.

Studies show that gift recipients value objective quality more and appreciate a gift they prefer regardless of the giver’s intent. Thoughtfulness (like handing out apples out of concern for kids’ health) only benefits the giver. The right gift must show the giver has put herself in the shoes of the recipient. Which adults liked getting raisins on Halloween when they were kids?

As you deck out your house with ghoulish decorations and stock up on treats this year, remember to think about the time and effort the little monsters (and their parents) took to get them dressed up to bring a smile, or spooked look to your face, and make sure you’re ready with the best treats possible. Happy Halloween!

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