The Generosity Experiment - the premise

Q. Does cooperation alter trust and generosity?

To set up a regular Sunday dinner scenario and format, where we can run informal experiments, explain these concepts to guests and invite them to suggest future iterations of the experiment for future guests.

The format :: Guests are notified as asked to pre-commit by Friday evening for the following Sunday. There are 20 spots for dinner, 10 on each table. :: On arrival guests are randomly assigned to one of two tables. :: Before dinner we do a survey of basic demographics, attitude to money, to authority, trust, generosity while tea is served. These are paper surveys that will take 15 minutes.

Dependent Variables

Pre dinner Measure of generosity // Everyone has 5 $1 bills and two jars and are asked to divide their tokens between the social good pool and their own pool. This is done out of sight.

Each table placement has two boxes for each of the measures of generosity


The interventions

Table 1
Table 2

Here each guest is given two ingredients and asked to distribute them around the plates on the table such that the group collaboratively creates communal dinner.

Table 2 // Here the same food items are pre-plated and served to guests. In this way the two tables are controlled for food and communal interaction, the intervention is collaboration.

Menu and ordering

// 1 ingredients per person salad

1 Spinach

2 Greens

3 Baby carrots

4 Olives

5 Feta

6 Toasted nuts

7 Red peppers (s

8 Artichoke hearts (jar of)

9 Baby tomatoes

10 Mozzarella balls

11 Croutons

12 Garlic bread

13 Baby potatoes (bag of)

14 mushrooms (sliced)

15 snap peas (bag of)

16 Brie

Table 1 - 8 plates are pre- plated and served

Table 2 - 8 plates empty and ingredients placed in the center, collaboratively distribute the food.

Post dinner Measure // Repeat of the pre-dinner measure such that we have a before and after metric of the public good.


Over dessert the the experiment is explained to guests and the theme for discussion is comedy of the commons, this dinner being an example of something that is greater the more people who participate in it.