People from some countries are less honest than others, this study shows

Louis Dor
Tuesday 17 November 2015 18:00

People from some countries are more honest than others, but all are dishonest to some degree, research has shown.

The study, published by an academic from the University of East Anglia, found that people’s honesty varied significantly, and 1,500 participants from 15 countries were tested for dishonest behaviour.

Participants were asked to flip a coin and say what the outcome was in an online survey, with a monetary incentive to say that it landed on heads. Any set of results higher than 50 per cent for a country were assumed to hold an element of dishonesty.

Participants were then asked to complete a music quiz with very difficult answers, and asked not to search online for answers.

Dr David Hugh-Jones found evidence for dishonesty in all the countries surveyed.

The four least honest countries in the coin flip test were China, Japan, South Korea and India, but Asian countries were not significantly more dishonest in the quiz, where Japan had the lowest level of dishonesty.

Note: Average not submitted in original research, added by

Dr Hugh-Jones, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of East Anglia, 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.

More: Belgium trolled France but then fell victim to the sickest burn in EU history

More: One of these men was voted the most honest person in the leaders' debate