Ah, great. Another chance for science to overturn our hopes and dreams.
Actually, not quite. But sort of, depending on what you hold dear. We all know that free food, to a young person, is worth a pound of flesh. So a tiny bit of a friend’s flesh? No problem.
The study in question was not quite that sinister. But it did pit allegiance to your friend’s privacy against your craving for a classic slice of pizza.
Altruism in humans has been debated for years. Some moral philosophers suggest that empathy and altruism are not morally positive whatsoever, and depend on context to be considered moral or immoral. Others claim that altruism and empathy have evolved purely because they help us survive, to care for children, to create a reason for us not to kill our neighbors.
Well, it all falls down at the altar of pizza.
According to an MIT study that tested 3,108 MIT students, 98 per cent of people will give up one of their friend’s email address for a slice of pizza.
That’s right – America’s best and brightest, the ‘new generation’, are willing to clog your inbox full of spam just for a one-time payment of cheese and pepperoni. Not that we blame them.
Here were the conditions of the study. Researchers asked students for the contact information of their closest friends – 94 per cent obliged right off the bat. Most people do what they are told when in the presence of authority – 4 per cent of those who withheld that information then agreed to give it up when offered a slice of pizza.
So, most people will probably give up your email address if they are simply asked to by someone in a position of authority. The remaining 4% will give it up for a slice of pizza.
Now, the most important thing we can remember here is that intelligence has no correlation to life’s other considerations. Very smart, very ambitious MIT students are no purer than the rest of us. Yet, how many of us even consider an email address to be private information?
The study isn’t airtight. But humans in general are just not willing to go down with the ship, and private information is no longer considered to be very private. How many job forms or apartment forms require social security numbers? Surely that’s not private. We have no way to understand if a web page is actually as ‘secure’ as it claims, or if Google trackers can get into it anyway.
Now, 6 per cent of people later admitted to giving up fake email addresses. Those are the smart and privacy-conscious ones.
The fact that it was an MIT study also increases the likelihood of people to surrender their information. After all, they trust their university more than a random person off the street. What’s the worst that MIT can do with an email? So don’t worry too much. You can still count on your friends a lot to protect your information… just not too much.