Christmas Past or Christmas Present – which is best?

Christmas at home

Charles Dickens knew a thing or two about human psychology. In “A Christmas Carol“, the main character Ebenezer Scrooge connects his past to his likely future and changes his behaviour as a result. Instead of being a miser, he dramatically alters his behaviour and becomes a model of generosity, providing his neighbours, the Cratchit family, with a wonderful Christmas. It seems that realising the future he was providing people was much like his own rotten past became a powerful emotional trigger for Scrooge.

Interestingly, new research due to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that we are rather like Scrooge ourselves. When we have powerful emotional feelings of our past, we tend to give more to charity, the research shows. The study suggests that the emotional connection between our own pasts and the future for other people is a significant factor in our desire to help. Charities can learn from this – instead of just playing on the emotion of the present time for people in crisis, they would get more money if they connected that issue to our own past. The nostalgia you have for your time as a teenager, for instance, will make you dig deeper into your pockets for a charity that deals, for example, with children in care this Christmas time.

It is yet more evidence that personal emotions are central in our decisions to reach into our pockets and hand out cash. It is a “trick” which far too few online businesses pay attention to. Instead they tend to focus on the here and now, or with technology – the future. Yet they’d make more money, it seems, if they focused on our pasts and dragged up intense personal emotions. In the year ahead, you will make more money online if your website connects with people at an emotional level; all this new research shows is that by getting people to remember positive things about their past, you are more likely to make that connection.

Now,  just for a moment I’d like you to pause and remember your best ever Christmas as a child. Remember when you got that amazing present, when it was all magical and you just loved the day. Now, with that memory firmly in your mind visit Make a Wish where you can help children for whom this may be their last Christmas.

See – nostalgia works.

Happy Christmas and thanks for all your comments and participation over the past year.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
RT @SteveHeadSpeaks: Thanks to @GuidesForBrides for having @ChrisHeadMagic at #ukwedconf @MiltonHillhotel learning from the best @grahamjon - 22 hours ago
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