The Social Context of Decision Making

On January 12, 2007, a young man dressed in blue jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and baseball cap removed a violin from its case, placed the open case on the ground before him (and tossing in a few bills plus change), and began playing Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. He set up just outside the turnstiles leading to Metro subway trains in a Washington, D.C., Metro station. Over the next forty-three minutes, 1,097 people, mostly federal government employees, passed him on their way to work. Fewer than thirty-five stopped to listen to him. When he finished playing after three-quarters of an hour, he had collected $32.17 in donations from the passersby.

What made this event interesting is that the young man ...

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