Czechs are one of the most honest nations in the world, at least according to a research called ‘Civic Honesty around the Globe’, published in the US magazine Science. The authors of the research, which cost some 600, 000 US dollars, examined the trade-off between honesty and self-interested using a unique field experiment.
Turning in over 17,000 wallets with varying amounts of money at public and private institutions in over 350 cities in 40 countries around the world, they measured whether the recipients contacted the owner to return the wallets.
“Honest behaviour is a central feature of economic and social life,” the authors write. “Without honesty, promises are broken, contracts go unenforced, taxes remain unpaid, and governments become corrupt. Such breaches of honesty are costly to individuals, organizations and entire societies.”
According to their research, carried out around the globe, the Czech Republic comes out as the world’s seventh most honest nation, after Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Poland. China, Morocco, Peru and Kazakhstan placed on the other side of the scale. Also placing in the bottom half were the US and UK.
The authors left the wallets at various public institutions, such as banks, theatres or museums as well as to public offices, including police stations and courts of law, claiming that they had found them on the street around the corner.
The amount of money varied randomly from none to the equivalent of over 13 US dollars. The researchers used local currencies, and to ensure comparability across countries, they adjusted the amount according to local purchasing power.
Apart from money, the wallets also included a business card with the name and email of its owner.
For the Czech Republic, wallets with up to 170 crowns were left not only in Prague, but also in other cities, including Brno, Liberec, Ostrava, Olomouc and Pilsen.
Despite the researchers’ expectations, citizens in virtually all countries included in the experiment were more likely to return wallets that contained larger amounts of money.
“In virtually all countries, citizens were more likely to return wallets that contained more money. Both non-experts and professional economists were unable to president this result. Additional data suggest our main findings can be explained by a combination of altruistic concerns and an aversion to viewing oneself as a thief, which increases the material benefits of dishonesty,” the authors concluded.