That Time I Accidentally Implied an Organ Sale was Happening

The other day I was reading this article about reciprocity/game theory/human nature.  And by "article," I might mean that I was reading HPMOR again, but shhhh, leave me alone, the science is still good.  Basically, it was discussing how to get people to do things for you that they don't necessarily have any reason to do.

How do you do that?  The obvious answer is to incentivize the thing.

I can offer you $5 to do the thing for me.  Or, I can offer you something "free" up-front (worth less than $5), with no strings attached, and then ask you to do the thing I want.  In the second option there is absolutely nothing stopping you from taking the "free" thing from me and not doing the thing I want you to do.  It seems like it people would generally do the thing that gets them the more money, or just take the "free" thing and bounce, but neither of those is usually the case.  Social science experiments have shown that the second option works better pretty much every time for everyone involved. I end up giving you less money to get you to do the thing I want you to do, and you end up feeling better about it. 

As I was walking into the hospital the other day, there was a little booth set up by the elevators with a couple of representatives from LiveOnNY, the local organ donation network.  They were giving away "free" LiveOnNY swag.  They had phone chargers and maybe frisbees and sunglasses.  Everyone was really excited about the sunglasses (they were, admittedly, pretty cute fire-engine red ray ban knockoffs).  

So I tell L this story, cause I think it's sorta funny that I happen to see the theory I was just reading about in practice.  But by the time I get to the sunglasses point in the story, L starts freaking out and interrupts me with this really concerned look on her face: "OMG, WERE PEOPLE TRADING THEIR ORGANS FOR SUNGLASSES?!?!"  

As soon as I regained composure, I hastily reassured her that I was pretty sure that wasn't what was going on.

But now I'm not sure.

What would you do for a free pair of fire-engine red knock-off ray bans? 

(In all seriousness organ donation is awesome and you should do it and you can check out LiveOn NY here)


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