So picture this: You’re a receptionist at, say, a hotel. Someone walks in and says they found a lost wallet but they’re in a hurry. They hand it to you. What would you do?
And would that answer be different if it was empty or full of cash?
Those are questions researchers have been exploring; Thursday, they published their findings in the journal Science.
The experiment started small, with a research assistant in Finland turning in a few wallets with different amounts of money. He would walk up to the counter of a big public place, like a bank or a post office.
“Acting as a tourist, he mentioned that he found the wallet outside around the corner, and then he asked the employees to take care of it,” says Alain Cohn from the University of Michigan, the study’s lead author.
The researchers assumed that putting money in the wallet would make people less likely to return it, because the payoff would be bigger. A poll of 279 “top-performing academic economists” agreed.
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