Measuring dishonesty


Researchers from Norfolk-based University of East Anglia (UEA) has recently rated the people of India as one of the least honest and kept the country in a category of the dishonest along with China, Japan and South Korea. The key finding of the research suggested that people’s honesty varies significantly between countries. However, Asian countries were not significantly more dishonest than others in the quiz, where Japan had the lowest level of dishonesty, said the research. What is even more interesting about the news is the way dishonesty has been measured using a novel methodology. The research conducted using a coin flip test among 1,500 participants from 15 countries found out that the four least honest countries were found to be China, Japan, South Korea and India.

The research however points out that the difference between Asian and other countries in the coin flip may be explained by cultural views specific to this type of test, such as
attitudes to gambling, rather than differences in honesty as such. The findings also suggest honesty is less important to a country’s current economic growth than during earlier periods in history. The research team examined whether people from different countries were more or less honest and how this related to a country’s economic development. For research made the participants take part in an online survey involving two incentivised experiments designed to measure honest behaviour. The participants were first asked to flip a coin and state whether it landed on “heads” or “tails”. They knew if they reported that it landed on heads, they would be rewarded with money. If the proportion reporting heads was more than 50 percent in a given country, this indicated that people were being dishonest.  The same participants were then asked to complete a quiz where they were again rewarded financially if they answered all questions correctly. Data from the tests was compared to estimate whether people from particular countries were more likely to tell the truth. The countries studied understudy were chosen to provide a mix of regions, levels of development and levels of social trust. Estimated dishonesty in the coin flip ranged from 3.4% in Britain to 70% in China. In the quiz, respondents in Japan were the most honest, followed by Britain while those in Turkey were the least truthful. It was found that people were more pessimistic about the honesty of people in their own country than of people in other countries. The research found out that the honesty of countries was related to the countries’ economic growth too.

While one can argue on whether or not the methodology adopted could truly explain or rather measure the level of dishonesty, the research at least points out significant qualitative connotation already made known by earlier studies. Hope, the research would be an eye opener for those who swear by transparency.


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