Imagine Their Surprise: Lost Wallets That Have Money In Them More Likely To Be Returned, Researchers Report
If there's money in the wallet, ''It suddenly feels like stealing,'' researchers said. And the more money in the wallet, the higher the rate of return. They planted 17,000 "lost wallets" across 355 cities in 40 countries. On average, 40% of people given cashless wallets reported them, compared with 51 percent of people given wallets with money.
The New York Times:
Would You Return This Lost Wallet?
It’s obvious: Someone finding a lost wallet is less likely to return it if money is inside, right? That’s what top economists, as well as regular people, usually predict, given what most of us assume about human nature. But according to a clever new study involving thousands of people in 40 countries, what most of us assume about human nature is wrong. The three-year study, possibly the largest real-world test of whether people behave honestly when given incentives not to, found they are actually more likely to return lost wallets containing money. And the more money, the better the chances people will return it. (Belluck, 6/20)
The Associated Press:
Lost Wallet? More Cash Means You're Likelier To Get It Back
"The evidence suggests that people tend to care about the welfare of others, and they have an aversion to seeing themselves as a thief," said Alain Cohn of the University of Michigan, one author who reported the results Thursday in the journal Science. Another author, Christian Zuend of the University of Zurich, said "it suddenly feels like stealing" when there's money in the wallet. "And it feels even more like stealing when the money in the wallet increases," he added. That idea was supported by the results of polls the researchers did in the U.S., the U.K. and Poland, he told reporters. (6/20)
Los Angeles Times:
Experiment With ‘Lost’ Wallets Reveals That People Are Surprisingly Honest
The findings could help shape policies that encourage conscientious behavior in a range of situations, researchers said. The Internal Revenue Service could design its forms in a way that discourages people from cheating on their taxes, for example, while insurance companies could change the way they collect information about a car accident so that lying becomes less appealing. (DeMarco, 6/20)