If you lose your wallet with money and a key in it, how likely are you to get it returned? Berkley researchers addressed that question by conducting a test in 350 cities across the globe. They had some surprising results.
Each wallet contained a clear ID with an email address, a grocery list written in the local language, (suggesting the owner lived locally), a key, and either no money or a small amount of money.
A wallet with money is most likely to be returned, and including a key increases the likelihood. An article by Jill Suttie outlined some of the conclusions the researchers found; such as more money increased the probability of return.
The expectations in designing the research was that the money would disappear most quickly. The study found that people’s desire to do the right thing was a very powerful force. The return rate was highest in wealthy, highly educated, and more democratic countries, although they were not able to prove a direct relationship.
They were able to rank which countries had the highest and lowest wallet return results. The lowest rates of return were in China and Morocco at 14%. The highest rate was 76% in Switzerland and Norway.
The studies made were anonymous so the individuals were not likely to be caught if they did not return the wallet. The study concluded that people’s altruistic concern for the wallet owner played a key role, according to David Tannenbaum, one of the study’s authors. Most people considered keeping the money or wallet as stealing.
Similar results of empathy impacting behavior is that doctors who were exposed to patients who died from narcotic overdose were less inclined to prescribe opioids to their future patients.
Believing Others Are Honest
When we are living in a culture where there is a feeling of trust and mutual support, the work environment can be much more productive. Recognizing that there is an important part of human nature that is more altruistic than greedy builds a more productive culture.
My personal belief is that if I lean toward trusting others, I will be taken advantage of ten percent of the time. The other 90% is more rewarding because of the positive expectations. It is a reasonable trade-off most of the time.