I first saw the story in the NYT and then on NPR and The Verge and other publications. I am sure you saw or heard it somewhere because it was one of these stories the media feels it has to cover. Originally published in the journal Science it dealt with an experiment that over 200 economists thought would go contrary than it did, would not reveal people’s capacity for honesty. Some 17000 wallets usually with money in them were dropped in places like banks and post offices in over 40 countries by people posing as tourists. What they found is that people did try to return the wallets, in much larger percentages than imagined. The name and email of the purported owners were included and efforts were obviously made to contact the owners. To note was that the names were changed according to the country. What’s more the greater the amount of money in the wallet the more likely the wallets were returned.
We have come to have a negative, if not cynical view of human nature, which of course can at least in part be substantiated by the amount of violence, greed, cruelty and meanness in the world. But to someone like me, someone thoroughly steeped in the existence and potential for good of our inner transcendent self, this finding only confirms what I’ve long known. I as so many have witnessed the manifestations of this good, this part of us that goes by many names, including spirit or Maslow’s positive instinctual core.
It’s time we change our view of human nature, not with naiveté but with the knowledge that given certain circumstances, the good does prevail.