ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (7): 909-920.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00909

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles    

The influence of weather and air pollution on honest behavior: A field experiment about lost wallets on campus

ZHAO Yujie1, GAO Yang2, ZHOU Xinyue1()   

  1. 1. School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
    2. Department of Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • Received:2019-08-21 Published:2020-07-25 Online:2020-05-25
  • Contact: ZHOU Xinyue
  • Supported by:
    This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China(3187 1095);This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China(71672169);national science foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars(71925005)


Honest behavior is a fundamental aspect of economic and social life. Although many countries have been committed to promoting civil honesty, there are still many dishonest behaviors that act as barriers to the development of society, such as broken promises, unenforced contracts and corrupt governments. In recent years, much research has been performed on the factors influencing people’s honest behaviors, such as social norms and emotions; however, these factors do not exist every time. The purpose of the current research was to explore how weather and air pollution influence honest behavior. We hypothesized that sunny weather would increase people’s honest behavior. In contrast, we hypothesized that air pollution would promote dishonest behavior.
Two studies were conducted to test the hypotheses. In Study 1, we used second-hand experimental data published online. Cohn, Marécha, Tannenbaum and Zünd conducted field experiments to test the relationship between civil honesty and money worldwide, and the research was published in Science in 2019. They measured whether recipients contacted owners to return wallets. Weather and air pollution data, however, were not analyzed in their research. Considering the availability and different standards of many countries’ air pollution data, we used Chinese and American experimental data (N = 1400) and corresponding weather and air quality indexes to test the hypotheses. In Study 2, we used a quasi experiment to test the influence of weather and air pollution on honest behavior. We randomly left campus cards and money in classrooms before class and recorded the weather and air pollution conditions at three Chinese universities (N = 407). In addition, we used whether recipients took the campus card or money as an indicator of honest behavior. Moreover, different kinds of classes were included in this study since previous research indicated that different classes might affect students’ honest behavior.
The results of Study 1 indicated that participants were more likely to contact the owner to return the wallet during sunny weather than during cloudy weather. In addition, air pollution also affected the participants’ honest behavior. The results indicated that the more serious the air pollution was, the less likely it was that people would voluntarily return the wallets. Study 2 further replicated this result and suggested that participants were more likely to take the campus card or money under cloudy weather and air pollution conditions. There was no significant difference among the classes in terms of honest behavior in this study. In conclusion, sunny weather promotes honest behavior, but air pollution reduces honest behavior.

Key words: honesty, air pollution, weather, field experiment