Last Cookie Hypothesis

the last cookie
a familiar scene

How often have you walked past the tray of cookies at your office and noticed that there is only one cookie left? My guess is a strangely disproportionate number of times. You could substitute “cookie” for any tray of baked goods in general (brownies, muffins, etc) in this observation.

So, what’s the deal? Why is there so often precisely one cookie left?

I’ve asked others. They usually claim an altruistic reason like “not being greedy.” I call shenanigans!

So, why then was there only one cookie left with? On some level (conscious or not), the others considered the possibility that there is something wrong with this cookie, given that it is still there after all this time. Let’s face it: of all the cookies to have been eaten already, this one was not chosen 20 times. It is also guaranteed to have been sitting there the longest possible time of all the cookies.

One more motivation: nobody wants to clean up the cookie tray. Taking that last cookie leads to some sense of responsibility for cleaning up the mess.

Now you can sleep at night, understanding why it seems there’s always one last cookie sitting on a plate at the office.

3 replies on “Last Cookie Hypothesis”

I wonder if there’s an evolutionary advantage to leaving a last cookie, or unit of food. Wouldn’t be surprised if altruism towards a hungry person might play a role. Thus, helping to ensure the continued survival of more members of one’s clan. We are altruistic creatured: humans.

Nice insight. You’re probably correct that this plays into the decision, even in an environment like the office where risk of starvation is negligible.
As a counterpoint, it seems that evolution would have also taught us to seize the opportunity to eat when food is available. I think that the preservation mentality might come into play more strongly around one’s own family.

I’m the one who will take the last cookie, so I can clear the tray and clean up. When the last cookie sits on the tray long enough for all in the area to have a chance at taking it then I don’t feel bad about taking the last one.
I do draw the line at donuts and larger pastries. They can sit there in their greasy pink box all week for all I care.

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