According to recent study on truthfulness, Chinese people are the world’s most dishonest people, while British and Japanese people are the most honest. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain, and involved more than 1,500 people from 15 different countries.
Participants in the study were asked to flip a coin multiple times and state whether it landed heads or tails. If they stated that the coin landed on heads, they would be given money. Any country that had a reporting rate of heads that was greater than 50% was said to be dishonest.
It was estimated that 70% of Chinese people lied about the result of at least one coin flip. Meanwhile, only 3.4% of British participants were found to have lied.
Participants were then asked to complete a short quiz, in which they would earn money if they performed well. The participants were asked not to look up the answers on the internet. However, some of the questions essentially required participants to look up information. Answering those questions correctly indicated that the person was cheating.
Japanese participants were the most honest on the quiz, and Great Britain was the second most honest. Turkey had the highest rates of cheating, followed by China.
The countries that were studied included Brazil, China, Greece, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, Argentina, Denmark, Britain, India, Portugal, South Africa and South Korea.
The lead author of the study, economist Dr. David Hugh-Jones, said that the rates of honesty of the people seemed to be link to the rates of economic growth in their respective counties. Dr. Hugh-Jones said that people from countries with slower rates of economic growth tended to be less truthful than people from more prosperous countries. This relationship was strongest when considering economic growth that occurred before 1950.
Dr. Hugh-Jones said, “I suggest that the relationship between honesty and economic growth has been weaker over the past 60 years and there is little evidence for a link between current growth and honesty. One explanation is that when institutions and technology are underdeveloped, honesty is important as a substitute for formal contract enforcement. Countries that develop cultures putting a high value on honesty are able to reap economic gains. Later, this economic growth itself improves institutions and technology, making contracts easier to monitor and enforce, so that a culture of honesty is no longer necessary for further growth.”
Dr. Hugh-Jones suspects that cultural attitudes on gambling may have also played a big role in the outcomes of the test.
In another part of the study, participants were asked to predict the rates of honesty in other countries, as well as their own countries. The guesses were very off the mark.
People expected Greece to be the most dishonest country, but the Greeks were some of the most honest on the coin flip test.
Dr. Hugh-Jones said, “Differences in honesty were found between countries, but this did not necessarily correspond to what people expected. Beliefs about honesty seem to be driven by psychological features, such as self-projection. Surprisingly, people were more pessimistic about the honesty of people in their own country than of people in other countries. One explanation for this could be that people are more exposed to news stories about dishonesty taking place in their own country than in others.”
Another interesting discovery was that more dishonest people expected other people to be less honest as well.
“People’s beliefs about the honesty of their fellow citizens and those in other countries may or may not be accurate, and these beliefs can affect how they interact. For example, a country’s willingness to support debt bailouts may be affected by stereotypes about people in the countries needing help. So it is important to understand how these beliefs are formed,” said Dr. Hugh-Jones.
As for the United States, Americans scored around the middle of the road on both tests.