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People are more honest than expected. Social scientists struggle to explain

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The experiment involved a lost wallet:

A team of economists found recently that, in a massive global study of 17,000 “lost wallets” in forty countries, people were more likely to return a wallet if it contained a large amount of cash. This finding “defied the expectations of both professional economists and 2,500 respondents to a survey, who predicted that people would act in self-interest.” (The Guardian) …

A variety of sources struggle to account for the high level of honesty in a “selfish gene”/“hairless ape” paradigm

The lost wallet returns—and experts are baffled” at Mind Matters News

The puzzlement makes for fun reading.

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Having worked at a bank for quite some time I can tell you from first-hand experience that a teller is trained very thoroughly to put wallets back and never take the money it was actually quite comical tellers would hate to find money because that meant we would have to put that into the system which was a lot of work It was rare indeed to see a teller actually take money from a wallet or even take money off the floor Combination of honesty fear of losing your job and having to do way too much work to log way too little cash So that is a pretty biased factor AaronS1978
Caution is advised with this story. I read some about it the other day, and the setup of the experiment was questionable: They had people go into businesses (banks, stores) with a wallet prepared ahead of time. They turned it over to the teller, cashier, etc., and told them that they found it. Then they waited to see whether the cashier would call the phone number in the wallet. This setup puts responsibility onto the teller/cashier, because there is a witness who knows that they dropped off a wallet. This makes the teller think twice about what to do. (The wallet might belong to one of their own customers, after all.) What you want in an experiment like this--if you are truly measuring individual honesty, is to simply drop a wallet onto the sidewalk, and see what happens to it then. Certainly the return rate would be far below what it was here. EDTA

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