Accessibility links

As you wait for the lift on the ground floor of the RSA, you can watch the latest RSAnimate or a succession of quick facts from the society’s history or current projects. One of these is a reminder that you can measure the neighbourliness of a community by dropping stamped addressed letters in the street, and counting how many get posted.

As you wait for the lift on the ground floor of the RSA, you can watch the latest RSAnimate or a succession of quick facts from the society’s history or current projects. One of these is a reminder that you can measure the neighbourliness of a community by dropping stamped addressed letters in the street, and counting how many get posted.

The technique was devised by Stanley Milgram (the same chap behind the more controversial experiment on obedience and authority) – who among other things, noted that letters addressed to individuals were more likely to be posted than those to unpopular organisations.

However on my train journey into work this week I made the pleasing discovery through Matthew Cole’s book “How to Predict the Weather With a Cup of Coffee” that PG Wodehouse was conducting his own lost letter experiment before Milgram. A story from last year’s Telegraph carries the quotation: “Someone always picks it up … and it saves me going down four flights of stairs every time I want to mail a letter”.

The Telegraph also conducted a quick trial, dropping 50 letters in various cities. In Cardiff four out of ten were returned, In Glasgow six out of ten, in York six out of ten, and in London ten out of twenty. In Matthew Cole’s own experiment in Bristol, eight out of ten were posted. Anyone fancy contributing their own study?

Comments

Be the first to write a comment

Please login to post a comment or reply.

Don't have an account? Click here to register.