The Social Experiment in the Office Cubicle, Part I, 22 August 2013


Good Evening:

Shhhhhh…don’t tell anyone.

Before you I now present one photograph of the almighty dollar; well, one photograph of one almighty dollar. Um, OK, one photograph of one once-almighty dollar–a dollar packed a bit more oomph when I was much younger than it does today.


One of my co-workers found it and taped it along with the sticky note to the entrance of one of our empty cubicles for its owner to claim. That dollar bill has remained in its place for over two weeks. I hope this says something (positive) about my fellow workplace denizens. I have written in many places that my workplace is a bad place for a diet, and even better, we don’t take what isn’t ours.

But what shall we do with one dollar?

I had an idea that maybe we could buy a lottery ticket for the group; a small prize would get reinvested until we went bust; a medium prize would buy the gang donuts, coffee and other goodies (I said my place is a bad place for a diet); and we would divide any big prize among us in dollars.

One of my co-workers had a better idea. See below.


He taped one of his dollars next to the first. He and I, plus one additional co-worker, have begun an experiment. How many dollar bills will we attach to this cubicle cabinet before one or more start to disappear? It’s our own little social experiment. All three of us happen to know about the “marshmallow experiment,” testing and measuring the ability of children to delay gratification. Essentially, each child had a choice: either take a marshmallow right away, or wait and for each minute they waited they would get an extra marshmallow. So we will see what happens to our one dollar “marshmallows.” Incidentally, if I had been one of the children, I would have asked for strawberries, but I always was a strange kid.

Speculation, reasoned arguments, wild guesses, and examples of earlier and similar experiments welcome in the Comments section. Let your imagination run wild: we did. Or you can the results in Part II.

Vonn Scott Bair


6 responses »

  1. Prediction, based mostly upon your description of your office dynamics:
    The dollar bills will continue to slowly collect until they reach a magnitude which compels at least some office members to make them a point of conversation. A group of office co-workers, discussing the dollar bills, will at some point decide collectively to spend the money for some shared purpose (a bunch of lottery tickets, snacks, nice pens… something vaguely along these lines).

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