Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Honesty and us.

I happened to come across a thought provoking study by a group of researchers of the Norfolk-based University of East Anglia(UEA). The following were the highlights of the study:-

     * The countries studied were Brazil, China, Greece, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, US,
        Argentina, Denmark, UK, India, Portugal, South Africa and South Korea.
     * They're so chosen to provide a mix of regions, levels of development and levels of social trust.

     * The number of participants were 1,500 each from the 15 countries cited above.

     * They took part in an online survey involving two incentivised  experiments, designed to measure
        honest behaviour viz.
        (a) A coin flip test. They're asked to flip a coin and state whether it landed on "heads" or "tails".
             They knew that if they reported that it landed on heads, they'd be rewarded with $3 or $5.
             If the proportion reporting heads was more than 50% in a given country, this indicated that
             the people were being dishonest!
        (b) The Quiz. The same participants were then asked to complete a quiz where they're again
              rewarded financially if they answered all questions correctly.

      * Data from the tests was compared to estimate whether people from particular countries were
         more inclined to tell the truth!

The Findings.

 (a) The estimated dishonesty in the coin flip test ranged between 3.4% in UK to 70% in China.
 (b) In the quiz, the respondents from Japan were the most honest, followed by that of UK while
       those from Turkey were the least truthful.
 (c) People were more pessimistic about the honesty of people within their own country than of
       people of other countries, the explanation being, "people were more exposed to the news 
       stories of dishonesty taking place in their own country than in others."
 (d) Honesty of countries related to their economic growth, meaning poor countries were less
       honest than rich ones, this aspect being stronger for growth that took place before 1950.
 (e) In the coin flip test, the four least honest countries were found to be China, Japan, South Korea
      and India. Perhaps, the cultural views specific to this type of test, such as attitudes to gambling,
      rather than differences in honesty characterised the responses of the Asian countries from that
      of the rest!

Are we, Indians, among the least honest? A point that needs to be pondered upon!!


How much importance do we give to honesty in our day-to-day lives? Our backgrounds and the environment that we grew up in, have an important role to play!

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