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A Social Experiment: Dessert

October 27, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This post is a series of events observed frequently in Lewis 216, also known as the University Ministry Center.  It includes the description of human behavior seen in many places, particularly in a pattern called the “human-dessert pattern of behavior.”

A generous soul enters the University Ministry Center and slides a platter of baked goods onto the wooden table near the door.  “These are extras.  Please eat them—they’ll just get thrown away otherwise” he or she explains and then leaves with a smile, turning away from the curious eyes and open mouths of students positioned around the room.  One student looks at another, who looks down on her homework, timidly avoiding the “first person to get a piece” moment.  Everyone knows they want one, be it a cookie, brownie, or cake and being perpetually-hungry college kids they each know the platter will be empty before long.  But who will break the ice?  The students continue their meeting around the table at the window while others work on homework, carefully avoiding the wafting smells of sugar and chocolate coming from the platter by the door.

Before too long a newcomer walks through the door and, noticing the platter of desserts, exclaims “ooh, cookies/brownies/cake!” and peels back the plastic wrap, making a selection and taking a bite.  Instantly the student is bombarded with questions:  “Is it good?”  “ Are there peanuts in it?  You know I’m allergic to peanuts.”  “What flavor is that, it looks like it has white chocolate pieces.”  The newcomer blinks, looking slightly shocked at the sudden inquisition.  “Um, yeah, it’s really good” he says, taking another bite and taking his place on the couch.  Not realizing it, this student has broken the ice and soon the other UMC inhabitants swarm to the platter, eager to get their share of the surplus goodies.  Sounds of “mm” and “yup, it’s got peanuts, sorry so-and-so” fill the room as the sweets are enjoyed.  It doesn’t take long before the next period starts and a new crowd filters into the UMC, grabbing bits and pieces of the desserts on the platter…until something awful happens:  The last piece appears.

The poor little dessert sits on the platter, looking slightly crumbled but still delicious, begging for someone to come and enjoy it.  Guaranteed, it will take begging and bargaining to get this last piece eaten, in and amongst plenty of reasoning:  “Oh, I don’t want any” or “ Thank you, but I already had some,” being the most common forms of resistance.  That evening as Lewis 216 is locked up, the almost empty platter of desserts is picked up by the last UMC inhabitant and carried out the door, successfully won by the patient, lucky person who knows how to utilize the human-dessert pattern of behavior.

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