Congratulations! Americans Are Pretty Honest Folks.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Let’s switch the subject to pop sociology. Or maybe it’s pop anthropology. I can never quite keep them separate. Anyway, this post is about a recent study that investigates which countries are most honest.

David Hugh-Jones a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, recruited about 100 people each from eight countries and sat them down for an online test. First, they were told to flip a coin and report the results. Second, they took a short music quiz that included three really hard questions—but they were told not to use the internet to look up the answers. If their coin came up heads, they got $5. If they got a perfect score on the quiz, they got $5.

You would expect 50 percent of the players to flip heads, so anything above 50 percent represents cheating. You would expect roughly zero percent of the players to get more than one of the hard questions correct, so any mean score above one also represents cheating.

Hugh-Jones did not himself concoct an overall honesty score, so I went ahead and made up one myself. I just normalized the scores on each of the two tests to 100 and then averaged them together. The chart below tells the tale.

So there you go. The Chinese are the least honest and Brits are the most honest. Does this mean anything? It might, assuming you think this methodology actually tells us anything meaningful about national attitudes toward honesty. I pretty much don’t, for a whole bunch of reasons. But I was feeling kind of desperate to write about something other than ISIS, so here you go.

UPDATE: This post was originally based on a working version of the paper that included only eight countries and came to some conclusions that the final paper didn’t. I have rewritten the post and redrawn the chart to represent the results of the final paper.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate