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Your Brain is a Pushover for Certain Stimulii
tipping aristocracy democracy groveling servants itchy palm gratuities

Seeing Photos and Tipping Waiters -- What's It Mean?

Pictures tell us the false is true while tipping heralds the fall of the republic. So get rid of class? We trim, blend, and append two 2012 articles from (1) Ars Technica's, Aug 10, on pictures by J. Timmer; and (2) Pacific Standard, Aug 17, on tipping by J. Gravois.

by John Timmer and by John Gravois

Our gut feelings can easily be manipulated. All it takes is a bit of extraneous information like a picture or a verbal description and we're far more likely to assume that a statement is true.

Researchers asked people true/false trivia questions, like whether the macadamia is related to the peach. Seeing photos caused people to answer "true" more often than they did in a control quiz. And it wasn't just images. They could get a similar effect by reading a short description in question.

Why does this sort of truth bias arise? Even if a photo doesn't tell us much about the answer, it does make it easier to retrieve relevant information. When the information flows readily, we're more likely to conclude that we're familiar with the question that's being posed, and will then tend to conclude it's true.

To read more

JJS: If a picture is worth a thousand words, and a thousand words worth more than none, then focus on the image of an old-fashioned tipping jar in your mind’s eye.

Tipping is an aristocratic conceit -- “There you go, my good man, buy your starving family a loaf” -- best left to an aristocratic age. The practicing democrat would rather be told what he owes right up front. Offensively rich people may delight in peeling off hundred-dollar bills and tossing them out to groveling servants. But no sane, well-adjusted human being cares to sit around and evaluate the performance of some beleaguered coffee vendor.

The above happens to have been written by Michael Lewis in 1997. But in its argument and diction, it could pretty well pass for an excerpt from the original anti-tipping manifesto, “The Itching Palm: A Study of the Habit of Tipping in America,” a 1916 book written by fellow named William R. Scott. Both are part of a long, proud, exasperated tradition.

Americans of strong democratic fiber have been railing against tipping ever since the late 19th Century, when the practice drifted over from Europe, borne by wealthy Americans who had traveled to the continent after the Civil War and came back eager to share their new civilized manners with the poor relations at home.

As the decades have passed, tipping has only become more ingrained in American habits and business models, which makes it precisely the sort of thing that is most difficult to change. But that doesn’t keep the democratic gag reflex from kicking in on occasion. (Interestingly, now that tipping is everywhere, it is one of our most aristocratic publications -- the New York Times -- that seems most interested in leading the discussion about the practice’s ill effects.)

In any event, there’s another problem with tipping: societies in which you see lots of tipping are also societies where you see lots of … corruption and bribery.

The thesis that there is a relationship between gratuities and graft is not counter-intuitive nor novel. I consulted my trusty William R. Scott, and found:

The itching palm is not limited to the serving classes. It is found among public officials, where it is particularized as grafting, and it is found among store buyers, purchasing agents, traveling salesmen and the like, and takes the form of splitting commissions. There are varied manifestations of the disease, but whether the amount of the gratuity is ten cents to a waiter or $10,000 to a captain of police, the practice is the same.

To read more

JJS: Tipping is good because charity is good. But it is evidence of a hyper-hierarchical society. When you have some people feeling better than others, some people feeling worse than others, that’s not emotionally healthy for anybody. A much healthier society is much more egalitarian. And the way to make society class-free and egalitarian is through just distribution of society’s surplus, coupled with an end of taxation of people’s earnings, sales, and buildings. It’s called geonomics and it has always worked. Now, if only somebody would tip me for such wisdom!


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Truth About Global Economic Crisis: book review

The social psychology theory of structural balance

Can one kill, conscience intact?

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