A study of college students has found they are willing to give up personal details of their friends for a single slice of pizza.
Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans have previously said that it’s “very important” for them to be in control of who can get information about them. A whopping 60 percent have said that they would never feel comfortable sharing their email contacts.
But a new study from MIT found that when promised a slice of pizza, 98 percent of college students were willing to start dishing out their closest friends’ email addresses with abandon. It seems that whilst we’re uncomfortable having our own email address shared with strangers, we’re more than willing to do it to other people when there’s a slice of margherita on offer.
The study, published by the National Institute of Economic Research, looked at 3,108 college students at MIT. The students were asked to give up their closest friends’ email addresses. Half of the group were given the incentive of a slice of pizza if they complied. Of this group, 98 percent gave up their friends’ email addresses to the researchers.
The other half were given no incentive whatsoever, but 94 percent still gave email addresses to the researchers. However, in the non-incentivised group, 6 percent of participants wrote out fake email addresses (for example, this bastion of subtlety, [email protected]) in order to protect their friends’ privacy, more than in the incentivised group.
Not giving an email address was not an option in either group.
“Whereas people say they care about privacy, they are willing to relinquish private data quite easily when incentivized to do so,” the authors of the study wrote. The study mainly focused on a cryptocurrency introduced at MIT and how students adapted to the new technology. They wanted to know how consumers’ behavior changed when faced with a choice that “may limit the ability of consumers to safeguard their privacy”.
They found that consumers were reassured by irrelevant information about privacy when making choices about privacy.
“The introduction of irrelevant, but reassuring information about privacy protection makes consumers less likely to avoid surveillance at large,” the authors stated.
The study did not go into the quality of the pizza on offer, or whether 100 percent of students would have given up their friends’ details if the pizza on offer had had a stuffed crust.