A team of economists at the University of Zurich enlisted the help of 128 employees from a “large international bank” and quizzed half of them about their jobs and the company, while the other half were asked about their favourite hobbies.
Participants were then asked to toss a coin 10 times, unwatched by the researchers, and to report the outcome. If they flipped more heads than tails they were told they could earn money and if they reported all heads or all tails, they would receive $200.
The first group, which was asked about work, reported a significantly high proportion of heads – 58.2 per cent – while those who talked about their hobbies reported a hit rate of 51.6 per cent.
The study was tried out with other non-banking groups of people – students, for example – but did not find the same effect. This seems to suggest the banking sector has a particularly strong sway over people’s honesty levels.
The study was published in Nature magazine.