Social Obligation / Financial Transaction

I am reading Predictably Irrational by  Dan Ariely and I am enjoying it.

The last chapter I read  was “The cost of social norms” which talked about how in a social circumstance if someone asked you a favour, your more likely to do it free – and better then if you were offered $10 bucks for the same task.

If someone asks you randomly – Would you mind helping me move my couch – your more likely to say yes, then if someone said I will pay you $10 bucks to help me move my couch,  once your labour is given a value,  the task becomes financial or a part of the market  , and not a social task,  so therefore ‘social norms’ don’t apply,  and you  are more likely to say no.  My time is not worth $10

Cassandri  from HoTs & DoTs wrote in her post called Improving the Quality of Conversation some ideas for some conversation starters in our random pick up groups.

It got me thinking why do we ( me at least ) want to converse at all with these complete randoms,  that the chances of seeing them again are slim (with that exception of a druid I  ran into twice and shall call  Failsteve) that they probably don’t care about me, or that they are potential fodder for a blog post.  They want their money and badges.

By definition,  they see the experience of the random group  as a financial arrangement.   They put some effort in,  and get rewarded the same amount no matter if they tried hard,  or just did what was required.  The rewards have put a market value to their efforts.

The book Predictably Irrational has got me thinking of a rather good reason why we want to start conversations with randoms.  We move the interaction with the randoms back to  Social norms,  and away from the market/financial arrangement norm   Once it becomes ‘social’  we care about the people we are working with more,  are more likely to put in more effort, and forget that our efforts have a financial value.  If we can build up a rapport  with the group from the get go – ‘break the ice’ as Cassandri suggests  – then by Dan’s theory they are more likely to follow the social norms and play better because they don’t consider it to be a financial transaction

If you start with -” K go.  I just want my badges and gold”  then you are making the group all about financial gain, and therefore social norms and niceties don’t apply. You are also more likely to point out errors, gear issues, spec issues,   be snarky  – your time and efforts have a value,  and anyone interfering with this value is costing you.

If you be pleasant – and can get a conversation going – and instill a ‘social’ norm or atmosphere then it won’t matter as much because the rules of being social apply.

**I don’t normally do these sorts of posts about social theory..  so bare with me – I do believe in at least trying to correct bad behaviour,  or at least pointing out they need to fix something obvious  – how you deliver the correction I think matters, and I don’t have the energy or the knowledge to try and ‘fix’ everyone, and some people will not take the nicest hint. I don’t think running randoms all the time as a social thing will actually  work ,  the above is me putting the theory of the chapter to something I know ( wow) and considering that it may have an impact on the success/general experience of a random run.

1 Response to “Social Obligation / Financial Transaction”

  1. 1 Klepsacovic February 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I read that book too after I got it for Christmas. I didn’t like the start of it much, his examples seemed based more on lack of information rather than actual irrationality.

    But yes, the social-financial split seemed very practical. Even before I read that I would try to be polite with groups, not rush them, that sort of thing. Lo and behold, a DK traded a DPS neck to me because it wasn’t all that big of an upgrade for her.

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