Being the Boss Means Getting The (Second To) Last Cookie

Illustration for article titled Being the Boss Means Getting The (Second To) Last Cookie

Finally, there is an experiment that can fill me with ambition. A group of workers was given an insufficient cookie supply. (I know. Disgusting. It's like a crummier version of the Stanford Prison Experiment.) And guess who got more than their share.


In an experiment about power dynamics, researchers split students into groups of three and had them work together on a technical paper. Although all three students were working, one was labeled as the "boss." And here's where it gets twisted. Someone brought in a plate of cookies that could not be divided evenly. Five cookies were supplied for three people.

Everyone took a cookie. There were no fools in those groups. It was rare for anyone to eat the last cookie, as to eat that cookie was to deny one person in the group the pleasure of eating a second cookie. The conventional polite thing to do is to deny two people the pleasure of eating a second cookie, by leaving the last cookie on the plate. However, there is no convention against eating the second-to-last cookie. The only question is, who would get to it first?

The researchers found that, most of the time, the "boss" would eat that second cookie. Not only that, but the boss would eat it in a "disinhibited" way - mouth relatively open, making relatively loud smacking noise, eyes gleaming with malicious pleasure. I may be making that last one up. The point is, power corrupts. And in corrupts in such a way that the powerful one gets the last (actually edible) cookie. So I'm for it.

[Via The Cookie Experiment.]


I have no qualms about eating the last cookie or all of the cookies if I can get away with it. Usually other people in the meeting just give me their cookies. Because, really, it's all about me.

OK, I'm kidding. But I really have no inhibitions about helping myself to meeting doughnuts, including the last one. Case in point. I'm hoarding all the left over lemon squares from yesterday's birthday feast. :)