What Determines If A Lost Wallet Is Returned? Science Has The Answer

If you find a lost wallet, would you return it? A new study has analyzed this question and come to some very surprising results. According to this study, published in Science, the more money there is in a wallet, the more likely it is to be returned. That goes completely against what I had personally imagined (that the more money there is in a lost wallet, surely the less likely it would be to be returned).

This study was led by Michel Marechal and was carried out across 355 cities in 40 countries, and involved 17,000 lost wallets that they would leave in places like hotel receptions, museums or post offices. Each wallet had a different amount of money in it, along with a business card, shopping list and a key.

According to the researchers, there were 4 factors that influenced whether a lost wallet was returned: the monetary incentive to keep the money, the effort involved in getting in touch with the owner, altruistic considerations and the so-called “psychological cost of being dishonest” (where keeping an item someone else lost is usually seen as robbery, and someone taking a lost wallet has to live with that).

Beyond the interesting finding that the more money a wallet had in it, the more likely it was to be returned, researchers found that there was a huge variation in different countries. Switzerland, Norway, Holland, Denmark and Sweden were the most honest countries, as the vast majority of wallets were returned (between 70 and 85%). However, countries such as China and Kenya has far worse, with only around 20% of lost wallets being returned.

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Karen Owens

I'm a stay at home mom who writes for Pop Top News as a freelance writer. I thoroughly enjoy reading scientific research and reporting on it, so I am very happy to be here and contributing. I especially have an interest in archaeology.

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Karen Owens

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