The way the cookie crumbles

I’ve been thinking about a couple of cookie-related stories I’ve noticed recently.

I blogged the first a while back ago: Bob Sutton found this nugget in this report

One of the simplest and yet most fascinating experiments to test the thesis is the “cookie crumbles” experiment. Researchers placed college students in groups of three and gave them an artificial assignment — collaboration on a short policy paper about a social issue. They then randomly assigned one of the students to evaluate the other two for points that would affect their ability to win a cash bonus. Having set up this artificial power hierarchy researchers then casually brought to working trios plates containing five cookies.

They found that not only did the disinhibited “powerful” students eat more than their share of the cookies, they were more likely to chew with their mouths open and to scatter crumbs over the table.

Then I heard about the story in Time:

The most successful interrogation of an Al-Qaeda operative by U.S. officials required no sleep deprivation, no slapping or “walling” and no waterboarding. All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.

Apart from the cookie link, both these stories highlight the surprising impact quite small gestures or shifts of apparent status can have.

As I’m still running my “notice more, change less” mantra, I’m reminded of the simple power that come from taking time to see the subtle ways our lives are connected… something that eludes those who, for instance, still like to dismiss things like twitter as irrelevant chit-chat.

If this theme intrigues you too, and you happen to be at a loose end on Monday, you might want to tag along to the Day of Noticing I’m running with Kay Scorah. It promises to be a small and intimate workshop. So much so that I’m offering a discount of £50 now in the hope of drawing in a couple more people! Use the discount code “Twitter” to get that… or tell your friends!

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