Social experiment shows honesty abounds in Whaingaroa

A Raglan Area School project to purposefully lose a wallet has restored the student’s faith in humanity with an 80 percent success rate.

Inspired by the Lost Wallet Experiment where researchers dropped off more than 17,000 wallets in 40 countries over the course of more than two years, teacher Joe Rao set the task to see how Raglan fared against cities like London, New York and Warsaw.

Matua Joe’s tailor-made Social Sciences curriculum has a particular focus on teaching kindness, and building empathy and honesty. To help these principles come alive for students and make them meaningful, he has launched programmes such as Roots of Empathy and his version of the World Peace Game.

“I want to try and pass on Gandhi’s message that it is important to stand up and be passionate about the change you want to see in the world,” he says.

Using his own money as temptation, Joe gave the students six wallets to ‘lose’ in various locations around Raglan, including outside the library, Supervalue’s ATM, Raglan Roast and Manu Bay.

The Year 9 and 10 students RJ Rendle, Keira Hishon, Mia Paisnel, Tawhia Wellby, Luke Dymond and their classmates added $10, an identification card and their teacher’s mobile number to each of the wallets and watched from a safe distance to see what would happen.

“We put out a wallet by the ATM and a couple had a look, opened it up and put it back down and walked away. But another guy picked it up and ran off,” Tawhia says.

They held up little hope for their wallet but it was handed in at the police station along with another of the wallets.

“Raewyn (the local constable) says lost items are handed in all the time,” Joe says.

Five out of six of the wallets were eventually handed in with one person contacting the mobile number within five minutes of the wallet being ‘lost’.

The only wallet that wasn’t returned was the one dropped at Manu Bay.

Raglan’s success rate put the town on a par with the cities that scored the highest in the social experiment, including Helsinki in Finland and Mumbai in India.

The students initially were sceptical about getting the wallets back and they reckon the experiment reinforces that the people of Raglan are trustworthy.

And Raglanites must be an extremely honest bunch as the researchers found people were more likely to return the wallets if they had more money in them.

Janine Jackson