Nav: Home

When queuing in a supermarket, who do you let go first?

October 22, 2015

Unlike cooperation among individuals that meet on a regular basis, one-shot interactions among strangers are not motivated by the prospect of receiving a favour in return. So why bother being helpful? In an attempt to shed light on the evolutionary puzzle of what factors result in cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals who meet only once, two German researchers examined a situation well-known to everyone: standing in line at the checkout of a supermarket.

The researchers, Florian Lange and Frank Eggert from the Department of Research Methods and Biopsychology of the Institute for Psychology of the Technische Universität Braunschweig, find that the behaviour of customers towards others depends on two variables: the cost-to-benefit ratio of the helpful act and the image the customers have of the opposite individual. The research is published in Springer's journal Human Nature.

Lange and Eggert undertook a field experiment in which two male subjects lined up at the checkout, carrying one item that was clearly visible to other customers. Each subject lined up 60 times. In 50% of the cases, they carried a bottle of water, in 50% a bottle of beer. The order of items was randomized. An independent observer monitored each iteration.

The experiment found that customers were more willing to cooperate if the recipients could save a significant amount of waiting time. The authors explain this by way of a model of image-dependent indirect reciprocity: potential helpers are more willing to cooperate if the recipients' benefits are relatively large in comparison to the helpers' costs. However, the potential helpers' readiness to cooperate was reduced significantly if the test customer was carrying a bottle of beer. According to previous research, beer drinkers are often perceived as lacking responsibility and morality. Lange and Eggert hypothesize that people may regard beer drinkers as being relatively unlikely to pass on the favour and help other individuals in turn. Thus, they conclude that the willingness of individuals to help also depends largely on their image of the recipient.

Further research is necessary in order to gain greater knowledge of the determinants of human cooperative behaviour, particularly with regard to observability and more direct information about the recipient's cooperativeness. However, the study provides an initial finding that cooperation among strangers follows a model of indirect reciprocity, and demonstrates the potential of field experiment methodology for the investigation of human cooperation.
Reference: Lange, F. et al (2015). Selective Cooperation in the Supermarket. Field experimental evidence for indirect reciprocity, Human Nature. DOI 10.1007s/s12110-015-9240-9


Related Beer Articles:

Reducing nitrogen with boron and beer
The industrial conversion of nitrogen to ammonium provides fertiliser for agriculture.
Consumers can distinguish between bitter tastes in beer -- doesn't alter liking
Although most beer consumers can distinguish between different bitter tastes in beer, this does not appear to influence which beer they like.
Beer was here! A new microstructural marker for malting in the archaeological record
A new method for reliably identifying the presence of beer or other malted foodstuffs in archaeological finds is described in a study published May 6, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Andreas G.
Brewing beer that tastes fresh longer
Unlike wine, which generally improves with time, beer does not age well.
Money spent on beer ads linked to underage drinking
Advertising budgets and strategies used by beer companies appear to influence underage drinking, according to new research.
Why you love coffee and beer
Why do you swig bitter, dark roast coffee while your coworker guzzles sweet cola?
Beer and fodder crop has been deteriorating for 6,000 years
The diversity of the crop sorghum, a cereal used to make alcoholic drinks, has been decreasing over time due to agricultural practice.
Keeping heavy metals out of beer and wine
A frosty mug of beer or ruby-red glass of wine just wouldn't be the same if the liquid was murky or gritty.
Investigating cell stress for better health -- and better beer
Human beings are not the only ones who suffer from stress -- even microorganisms can be affected.
Store craft beer in a cool place and consume it as fresh as possible
A new study by the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (Leibniz-LSB@TUM) shows that craft beer should be kept cool and consumed as fresh as possible.
More Beer News and Beer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.