A full wallet is more likely to come back
Around the world, people are more likely to return a lost, well-filled wallet than a fairly empty one. Researchers from Switzerland and the USA conclude this from the results of a sophisticated series of tests, for which they tracked the fate of 17,000 allegedly lost wallets. As supposedly honest finders, their employees in 40 countries had themselves passed on the wallets with or without money to third parties - for example to counter staff in banks or authorities or to receptionists in hotels. In addition to banknotes, coins and sometimes keys, the test purses always contained three identification documents so that the alleged owner was easy to identify. In the end, the team evaluated which of the finds had been returned to the addresses provided - and whether anything had previously been stolen from the returned purses.
Overall, 50 percent of purses containing coins and bills found their way back to the researchers, versus just 40 percent of empty wallets. In a follow-up experiment, the scientists also tested whether it made a difference how much money the "lost" purses contained: they filled the wallets with the equivalent of 14 or almost 100 US dollars in the respective national currency. 72 percent of the bulging purses and 61 percent of the smaller ones were returned. If it also contained a key, the odds were even higher.
This indicates altruistic motives of the finders, according to the scientists. However, it is also likely that the finders classified the retention of a higher amount of money as theft - with which they did not want to be burdened themselves. On the other hand, for a smaller amount, it's easier to excuse yourself by saying you're just too busy or too lazy to return the wallet.