Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What's the "Wallet Test"?
A: The "Wallet Test" is a sociological experiment designed to test honesty. We presented 100 randomly selected people with an ethical dilemma and then video taped their behavior. This is what was done:
Step 1: 100 identical wallets were dropped in various public places. (See: Wallet Page
Step 2: Hidden cameras recorded the people who picked up the "lost" wallets. (See: Main Page)
Step 3: Then we waited to see who returned the wallets and who kept them. (See: Results Page)


Q: What was in the wallets?
A: Each of the 100 wallets contained:
- $2.10 in real money,
- One fake $50.00 gift certificate,
- A clearly written ID card stating the name, address and phone number of the wallet's rightful owner,
- Plus a few miscellaneous items.
(Click HERE for details.)


Q: Where did the experiment take place?
A: In a medium-sized American city named "Belleville, Illinois".
(Click HERE for details.)


Q: What were you trying to prove with your "Wallet Test"?
A: Nothing, really. We were just curious as to how honest people in general would be. We also wanted to see how different races, genders and age groups would compare to each other.


Q: Who was more honest - women or men?
A: Women (Click HERE for details)


Q: Who was more honest - black people or white people?
A: White People (Click HERE for details)


Q: Who was more honest - younger people or older people?
A: Older People (Click HERE for details)


Q: Why did you bother to film the people who picked up the wallets? Why not just drop the wallets and go?
A: That would have been fine if all we wanted to do was measure how honest people were in general. But we wanted to also compare various races, age groups and genders to each other. In order to do that we needed to see who it was that was picking up the wallets.


Q: Who decided if someone was "white" or "black"? Those labels can be rather subjective.
A: True. To make it less subjective - the movies were evaluated by three different adults. They were the webmaster, the webmaster's wife and the webmaster's father. Each of them was asked (to the best of their ability) to identify the race, sex and approximate age of the "wallet pickers". If two out of three agreed on a person's race - then that became the persons "official" race.
    For example with wallet #65:
The webmaster identified the "wallet picker #65" as:
Sex = Female,
Age = 20s
Race = "Other"
The webmaster's wife identified the "wallet picker #65" as:
Sex = Female,
Age = 20s
Race = Black
The webmaster's father identified the "wallet picker #65" as:
Sex = Female,
Age = 20s
Race = Black
Two out of the three agreed that the "wallet picker" was "black" - so, for the purposes of the test, her "official" race was "black".


Q: Was your experiment legal?
A: Of course.


Q: Aren't you invading people's privacy?
A: No. All filming was done in public places. If people don't want to be filmed doing dishonest or stupid things, then they should not do dishonest or stupid things in public.


Q: Why do some of your movies, of people picking up wallets, have annoying black boxes in them?
A: Sometimes the black boxes are there to block copyrighted logos on things like buildings and vending machines. Other times it is used to cover people's faces to protect their identity.


Q: You only covered the faces of some of the people in your movies; why not cover the faces of everyone?
A: Most of the videos were shot from so far away that it was not necessary to cover peoples faces to conceal their identity.

Q: Why do some of the wallet drops have the letter "B" after them? Such as "#9B", "#17B", "#76B" and "#78B"?
A: The 9th, 17th, 76th and 78th wallets had to be done over because the person who picked up the wallet was not filmed. For example:
    #9 - When I dropped the wallet on September 8th 2006 - I had the camera pointing in the wrong direction. As a result I did not see who found wallet #9. So on September 28th 2006 I dropped #9B to replace it.
    #17 - On September 11th 2006 the camera was pointed in the right direction, but I dropped the wallet in the wrong place. I did not see who found wallet #17. So on September 28th 2006 I dropped #17B to replace it.
    #76 - On September 25th 2006 I turned the camera off after I saw a woman (from very far away) pick up the wallet. But when I looked at the film, after bringing it home, it clearly showed that the woman had NOT picked up the wallet. I did not see who found wallet #76. So on September 28th 2006 I dropped #76B to replace it.
    #78 - Also on September 25th 2006 I dropped wallet #78 and walked away. When I came back I noticed the wallet was no longer where I had left it - so I assumed that some one had found and taken it. When I looked at the film later - it showed that a woman had found it, picked it up - but instead of walking away with it, she merely moved it to another location within camera range. So I never did see who really took wallet #78. So on September 28th 2006 I dropped #78B to replace it.
NOTE: When you consider that I did 100 wallet drops it's amazing that I only had 4 screw ups.

 
Q: How did you decide if a wallet was "stolen" or "returned"?
A: As follows:
     1) If the lost wallet went missing for more then 30 days - it was presumed to have been "Stolen".     
     2) If we got the wallet back, but all the money was missing - then that was also considered "Stolen".
     3) If the lost wallet was returned within 30 days (by calling us or mailing the wallet to us) then the wallet was considered "Returned".
     4) If someone saw me drop the wallet and stopped me before I had a chance to walk away - then that is considered "Returned" as well.


Q: What happened when two or more people found the same wallet at the same time?
A: Who ever is the last person to be seen, on camera, holding the wallet prier to having items being removed from it - is considered, for the purposes of this experiment, the "wallet picker" - even if they were not the first person to find the wallet.
    For example: Wallet #35 was found by a teen-aged girl. After finding it she showed it to her 6 friends. One of her friends (a teen-aged boy) took the wallet and looked inside. Then all seven walked out of camera view. (Click HERE to see the movie) Even though the wallet was found by a teen-aged girl - it was the teen-aged boy who was last seen with it.


Q: Given that females are more honest than males and that you tested more white females than black females - is not the Black vs. White comparison unfair? In other words - how do you know that gender didn't somehow effect the race results?
A: Good question. Lets go back to the results and compare White Females with Black Females and White Males with Black Males:
---------------------------------
Of the 37 "White Females" tested:
95% (35) were honest and returned the wallets.
5% (2) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
--------------------------------
Of the 14 "Black Females" tested:
64% (9) were honest and returned the wallets.
36% (5) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
--------------------------------
Of the 40 "White Males" tested:
65% (26) were honest and returned the wallets.
35% (14) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
--------------------------------
Of the 9 "Black Males" tested:
44% (4) were honest and returned the wallets.
56% (5) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
--------------------------------
Gender was NOT the reason for the difference between white people and black people. If it was, then white females would have stolen about the same as black females and white males would have stolen about the same as black males. As you can see that was not the case.


Q: Given that older people are more honest than young people and that there were more young blacks than old blacks - is not the Black vs. White comparison unfair? In other words - how do you know that age didn't somehow effect the race results?
A: Another good question. Lets go back to the results and compare Young Whites with Young Blacks and Middle-Aged Whites with Middle-Aged Blacks:
---------------------------------
Of the 24 "Young Whites" tested:
62% (15) were honest and returned the wallets.
38% (9) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
---------------------------------
Of the 10 "Young Blacks" tested:
40% (4) were honest and returned the wallets.
60% (6) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
---------------------------------
Of the 30 "Middle-Aged Whites" tested:
83% (25) were honest and returned the wallets.
17% (5) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
---------------------------------
Of the 12 "Middle-Aged Blacks" tested:
75% (9) were honest and returned the wallets.
25% (3) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
---------------------------------
Of the 23 "Old Whites" tested:
91% (21) were honest and returned the wallets.
9% (2) were dishonest and kept the wallets.
---------------------------------
(NOTE: "Old Blacks" could not be reliably tested because there was only one person who was both "Black" and "Old". Just one person is, of course, way too small of a sampling for a meaningful evaluation. The one "Old Black" who was tested was dishonest and kept the wallet.)
--------------------------------
Age was NOT the reason for the difference between white people and black people. If it was, then "Young Blacks" would have stolen about the same as "Young Whites". As you can see, that was not the case. Also, if age was the reason for the difference between white people and black people - then "Middle-Aged Blacks" would have stolen about the same as "Middle-Aged Whites". As you can see, that also was not the case.


Q: I'm a member of the press. Do you have a press release for me?
A: Sure do! Click HERE to read our press release.


Q: I have a question that is not answered here on this page. How do I contact you?
A: I'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have on our Forum.


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A: Did I mention that we have a really cool Forum?  :)