Study finds Poles come top when it comes to honesty

Lose a wallet with money in it in Poland, there is a good chance it will be handed in. Allef Vinicius / Unsplash

Poles are amongst the most honest people in the world, according to new scientific research on the subject of honesty.

The study, carried out by an international team of scientists, put Poland in the top 10 of the countries studied when it came to reporting lost wallets.

Alain Cohn from the School of Information, University of Michigan, Christian Lukas Zünd and Michel André Maréchal from the Department of Economics, University of Zurich and David Tannenbaum from the Department of Management, University of Utah were behind the research that showed Poles to be far more honest than citizens of the USA or UK.

 Share of wallets reported in the NoMoney and Money condition by country.science.sciencemag.org

The researchers observed the reaction of people from 355 cities across 40 countries when finding wallets that had no money inside or wallets with money.  The wallets were transparent so those who found them could easily see what was inside without having to open it to investigate. They found that in only in Mexico and Peru did people report an empty wallet more than a wallet with money inside.

Reporting rates as a function of monetary stakes.science.sciencemag.org

Whilst examining a further scenario, when a lost wallet had a significant amount of money inside, Poland came top in returning the money and the wallet. Polish people reported the lost wallet with the large amount of money inside about 80 percent of the time compared with just above 60 percent in the USA.

The researchers poled the general public about the expected outcome and most predicted that as the money in the wallet increased the number of people reporting the lost wallet would decrease. The inverse was true in almost all countries however, with an increase in reporting the lost money and the wallet as the value inside went up.

 Actual versus predicted reporting rates. science.sciencemag.org

China fared worse in reporting wallets with no money inside with less than 10 percent of wallets being returned.  The lowest ranking European countries were Italy for wallets with no money and Portugal for wallets containing money. New Zealand was the only none European country to make it into the top quartile for returning wallets with both the UK and USA finishing in the bottom half of the 40 countries.