People reasonably honest

Less than 1 minute read

June 26, 2019

Here’s a little good news that will surprise those who believe everyone is corrupt and must be monitored by the government at all times to make us behave properly.  

In a $600,000 international experiment, university researchers dropped 17,000 wallets in public places in 40 nations to see if people would try to return them to their rightful owners.

Contrary to economists’ conventional assumptions (“people are selfish”), those who found the wallets were more likely to return them the more money they held.  Forty percent of empty wallets were returned, 51% of wallets with a little money in them were returned, and 72% of wallets containing a lot of money were returned.  Results varied from nation to nation but overall, the more money a “lost” wallet held, the more likely its finder was to return it. It suggests that most people around the world are more honest than they are selfish.

One caveat: two wallets dropped off in government anti-corruption bureaus were never returned. So I guess the conventional assumption about the honesty of government officials still stands.  

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  • David Gasten

    06/27/2019 02:36 PM

    From the article:

    “The results show just how prevalent civic honesty is, and they raise many questions, such as how environments can be designed to foster civic honesty.” ?

    Hmmm? Maybe laws against theft and the enforcement of them could play a role?