What would we do without research

Actually, this research appears to have been pretty open-minded.  The researchers left wallets all over the world and tried to figure out what influences people to try to return them to their owners.  They found interesting trends in national location, level of average local education, and size of wad of cash (would you have guessed that the greater the cash, the greater the chance of return?).

I tried to do a thought experiment about finding a wallet.  My first impression is that I'd never dream of failing to try to find the owner.  When I try to imagine find a stash of money large enough to be seriously tempting, I also start imagining making myself a target for death from some cartel.  Finding big money always gets people in trouble in movies and books.


Grim said...

I wonder how big an influence "this always works out badly in the movies" is on people's decision-making?

Tom said...

Interestingly, I've heard that cheap cars are stolen more often than expensive ones, and when I lived in Japan, that cheap bicycles got stolen but not expensive ones. Just hearsay, but interesting.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

An old Jackie Gleason/ Frank Fontaine routine:

Joe the Bartender: So Craze - (Crazy Guggenheim, who seemed to be a classic fool - intellectually slow, but wise) if you found a million dollars, would you try and give it back?

Crazy: That would depend on who lost it, Joe. If it was a rich person, I wouldn't worry about it much. But if it was a poor person, I would make sure they got it back.


Buried in the foolishness of the experts interpreting the results is this.
Countries with higher rates of primary education were also more likely to see high rates of lost wallets being reported.

"What this suggests is that what you learn in school is not just math and reading but also social skills, or just more generally how you treat each other,"
No, you idiot. Honest cultures are more likely to makes sure the kids get educated. This does not in any way show that kids learned this in school. They might have learned it at home. They might have had it at birth. It might be a result of more secure wealth. It might be more common in recently Christian countries. You can't figure out what is horse and what is cart, even though you do this for a living.

Texan99 said...

That was some sloppy cause-and-effect thinking, but I was impressed by this:

'The researchers think wealth could be a factor, but there's a lot more research needed to explain the differences. "Now the problem is that we don't really know whether wealth affects honesty or it's the other way around" — whether honesty contributes to a country's relative wealth, says Cohn.'

douglas said...

Hah- damn straight, AVI. I was thinking that educated are more likely to report at all as opposed to uneducated, but then it also occurred to me that the more educated you are, the less likely you want to deal with the potentially dirty business of finding the person who might have stolen your wallet, and therefore report it so someone else can take care of it. Could also be that it's just more reflexive for more highly educated to defer to authorities or expect them to make things right.