Readers of my book were invited to take part in a simple experiment. The $5 experiment examines a core idea of the cooperative economy – that of prosocial behavior. Would individuals be willing to promote the welfare of others at a cost to oneself? The experiment was designed to reveal if participants feel happier giving or rather receiving money.
The experiment was framed as following:
“Find a homeless person or a beggar in your neighborhood or town, and to the extent that you believe that this individual is truly in need, give them five dollars or the equivalent in your local currency. Once you have done so, proceed and meet a colleague or a friend and ask them to give you the same amount of money.”
Based on the 55 anonymous responses thus far, 93% reported feeling happier giving money with only 7% reporting being happier receiving money (see chart).
Of course, there could be a selection bias here because most of those who showed interest in taking part in this experiment are readers of my book who identify the problems with our current economic system and recognize the need for revisiting the principles of economic exchange. They are more likely to be prosocial.
For that reason, it is useful to consider the results of other experiments using randomized samples. For example, Flynn, Ehrenreich, Beron, & Underwood reported in their 2015 study of prosocial behavior in the Review of Social Development, that about 30% of the participants revealed a high inclination for prosocial behavior, 53% showed a medium level and the remaining participants exhibiting low levels of that inclination (see chart).
The fact that most of the population has medium-to-high inclination for prosocial behavior gives hope that by redesigning the economic system we can expect such prosocial behavior to overpower opportunistic behavior.
To learn more about my proposed design, visit www.cooperativeeconomy.net
If you wish to participate in the $5 experiment, you can complete it on my book’s website: https://cooperativeeconomy.net/5-experiment/