Altruism, reciprocity and health: A social experiment in restaurant choice
We used an experimental game to determine whether people imitate restaurant choice, reciprocate food gifts, and thus spread health choices. We randomly paired 138 subjects and recorded their decision to give or keep restaurant vouchers and their choice of restaurant. The majority (83.3%) chose an unhealthy restaurant if their randomly assigned partner chose an unhealthy restaurant. Similarly, 77.8% chose a healthy restaurant if their partner did (p=0.005). The altruistic were more likely to choose a healthy restaurant (p=0.017). In sum, restaurant choice is influenced by reciprocity. A cycle of projection, gifting and reciprocation may explain the social dynamics of food choice. We propose policies that capitalize on people’s tendency towards altruism and imitation.
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