You can give away your cake and eat it.

You can give away your cake and eat it.

You can give away your cake and eat it.

Imagine you have the choice of two pieces of cake, one much larger than the other, and your colleague is going to have the one you leave. There is a pressure on you to be generous and take the smaller one. It seems you can either have the better cake or appear generous, but not both.

However, Kardas, Shaw and Caruso showed that there is a way to appear generous and have the larger slice, at least a good percentage of the time. They conducted eight studies in different situations, some imagined and some in real-world situations.

They found that most people, in situations where they were going to choose, abdicated that decision to the other person involved because they wanted that person’s good opinion. Basically, they said, “No, you choose whichever you like, I really don’t mind.” It was their way of appearing generous.

The experimenters also found that most people, if they knew someone had been “generous” enough to abdicate the decision to them, would choose the lesser item. They would let the kind person who abdicated their decision have the better piece of cake (or whatever was on offer).

The person who abdicated the decision, therefore, not only achieved the good opinion of the other (appearing generous), but also got the better piece of cake.


Find out more about how the mind plays tricks on you and how your memory works by reading my books, Bias Beware and Memory Matters.

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