No, You Take It!

Should you give up the best option, take it for yourself, or... neither?

By Ilana Herzig, published November 6, 2018 - last reviewed on January 26, 2019

Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Most people want the bigger portion, roomier seat, or finer gift, but when a friend wants it, too, there's a tradeoff: Do you pick the better option and risk appearing selfish? Or choose the worse one with the hope of appearing generous?

In recent experiments, researchers at the University of Chicago found that people who did neither—and instead let a friend decide whether to take, for instance, the more valuable of two gift cards—were considered almost as generous as if they had just given the friend the better one. What's more, they were often granted the superior option by the friend anyway—partly, it seems, as a reward for their generosity.

If the findings hold for other social settings, then "when two friends, business leaders, or politicians want to reach cooperative outcomes, relinquishing control to the other person could be beneficial in more ways than one," says Michael Kardas, the lead author of the report. "You might not only strengthen an important relationship for the future but also prompt the person to behave more kindly toward you in the present."

Facebook image: zhukovvvlad/Shutterstock