Posted by Jay Livingston
In class the other day, I was trying to come up with examples of personal and situational attributions, when I remembered the Radiohead ploy: offer your new album as a download and let people pay whatever they want, from nothing on up. What kind of person would take something and not pay for it?
Conveniently, economist Tyler Cowen asked people to post to his blog saying what they paid. Most people gave not just the amount but also a comment.
None of the people who paid nothing attributed their decision to their own character traits. Nobody said, “I guess I’m just a cheap bastard.” Instead, they attributed their actions to external factors. (Deviance people take note: many of these resemble “neutralizations”)
It was the band’s fault
- If they wanted to offer that option I was going to take it. If I had to pay a minimum of five pounds, or ten pounds, I would have.
- I did not pay anything for it. That was their risk.
- I have not been satisfied with Radiohead's recent work and didn't think I would like this one (after two listens I think it's mediocre)
- They have an ugly website that doesn't work very well, so I bummed it from a friend.
- because they charge so much for their damn t-shirts. I feel like it evens out now.
But, as attribution theory predicts, the people who shelled out money for something they could have had free also refused to see their behavior as a sign of some internal trait like generosity. Instead, they saw it more as a strategy to achieve a goal.
- I paid 10 bucks. But in reality, part of what I was paying for was the beauty of the idea. Probably would have paid between $5 and $7 if this was already commonplace.
- £5 plus the service charge. I thought it was a fair price and a concept that needed supporting.
- 10 pounds. That's the going rate for a cd download, right? I thought it was brave of them to leave it up to the buyer