What would YOU do if you found a letter addressed to the Black Lives Matter movement on the sidewalk, would you put it in a mailbox? What if it was addressed to the American Neo-Nazi Party, would it make a difference?
In order to find out how people respond in such situations, one of your favorite professors, Ross Matsueda, has conducted a super interesting study called a “lost letter” experiment, where UW graduate students placed envelopes throughout Seattle neighborhoods addressed to either one of the two groups, or a third neutral party. They then collected data on which envelopes were actually mailed. This type of experimental study, often controversial (think Candid Camera), was first pioneered by sociologist Stanley Milgram (famous for his controversial “obedience experiments”) in the 1960s.
The goal of the experiment is to provide an independent measure of a neighborhood’s altruism and social cohesion, based on how many people in a given neighborhood will pick up an apparently dropped, stamped, addressed letter and drop it into a nearby mailbox. Click here to read more!