PerspectiveBehavioral Economics

Financial temptation increases civic honesty

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Science  05 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6448, pp. 29-30
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax5034

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Does temptation shape dishonesty? For example, when a person finds a wallet on the street and decides to return it to its owner, it may be because the contents of the wallet are not very tempting or, alternatively, because people care about complying with norms of good conduct, that is, civic honesty. Scientists commonly explore such questions about human honesty through artificial laboratory tasks, but such studies have not provided conclusive evidence about the extent to which people are honest in natural circumstances. On page 70 of this issue, Cohn et al. (1) describe a field experiment involving 17,000 people in 40 countries to provide a new measure of honesty. The results show just how prevalent civic honesty is, and they raise many questions, such as how environments can be designed to foster civic honesty.

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