Puzzle: Four people have a free hour on weekends. (A) One is a lawyer who bills clients at the rate of $295/hour. (B) The second is an accountant who bills clients at $100/hour. (C) The third is a schoolteacher who gets paid $45,000/year. (D) The fourth is a parking attendant who gets paid $10/hour. Knowing nothing else about these people, but assuming they have similar temperaments, who would you guess will be the most generous with their free weekend hour -- and donate it to volunteer work? Bonus points if you can also say why -- using a "hidden brain" explanation, of course!
The teacher, who gets paid an annual salary, is least likely to grudge the hour spent volunteering. I based this puzzle on some very interesting new research by Sanford E. DeVoe and Jeffrey Pfeffer, who found that as new lawyers start to get accustomed to the practice of billing clients per hour, they become less willing to donate their time for volunteer work. The researchers experimentally tested the finding by varying the billing time of lawyers, and found that this experimental manipulation produced differences in people's willingness to volunteer their time. Lawyers who were less materialistic and did not care as much about money as their peers were less affected by this, suggesting that being paid for the hour encourages people to think about their time in pecuniary terms. The person who gets billed $100 an hour thinks of their volunteer time as more valuable than the person who bills $50 an hour.