New Zealanders third-most-likely to hand in lost wallets with money

Jessica Satherley
 New Zealanders third-most-likely to hand in lost wallets with money

New Zealanders are the third most likely nationality to hand in a lost wallet with money in it, according to a new American study

The study undertook field experiments using 17,000 wallets “lost” and then handed in at public and private institutions across 355 cities in 40 countries. Some of the wallets had money in them (on average $13.45 USD), some did not.  

Denmark was found to be the most honest country when it came to handing in the wallets with money, while Sweden came in second place and New Zealand third.  

Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands respectively were the most honest when it came to handing in the wallets that had no money in them. New Zealand dropped to the eight-most likely to hand in the wallet when it had no money. 

On the flip side, Mexico and Peru were least likely to hand over a wallet with money in it and were the only two countries surveyed that were more likely to hand over the wallet if it was empty. 

China was the least likely nationality to hand over a wallet with no money in it, followed by Morocco. 

The purpose of the survey was to measure ‘civic honesty’, which “is essential to social capital and economic development, but is often in conflict with material self-interest,” the report said in Science Magazine

In almost all the countries surveyed, citizens were more likely to hand over the wallet when the amount of money in it increased, except in the cases of Mexico and Peru. 

The findings also correlate to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks Denmark and New Zealand the top two countries in the world in terms of being perceived to be the least corrupt. 

Dishonesty within societies leads to unpaid taxes, broken contracts and corruption within governments. 

But although this survey outlines civic honesty relating to handing in small amounts of money, psychological research also shows that honest behavior is less likely as material incentives increase. 

“Self-interest virtually always dominates concerns for the welfare of others – we care about others but not as much as we care about ourselves. 

“Psychological models based on self-image maintenance predict that people will cheat for profit so long as their behaviour does not require them to negatively update their self-concept,” the report says. 

The latest CPI ranks North Korea, Yemen and South Sudan as the three most corrupt countries in the world when based on perception, however those three countries were not included in this survey. 

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