Honesty in Britain: What would you do?

Honesty in Britain: What would you do?

We recently surveyed over 2,000 people to understand the UKs attitude towards a series of situations and their consequences. Nearly nine in ten (88%) said they would hand in a lost wallet and eight in ten (83%) of people believe cheating on an exam paper to be unacceptable - it appears we are a nation of considerate citizens!

But it’s not always black and white. Our survey also shows that over a fifth of respondents consider it acceptable to illegally download or stream TV, films and music, while one in ten condone train fare dodging and speeding in a 30 mph zone.

Sometimes the lines between right and wrong can be blurred. We spoke to Dr. Elliot Ludvig, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick, who explained why this might be, “One of the main drivers for honesty/dishonesty is the behaviour of others. People are often more or less honest, pending what they expect others to do”. If we believe other people might behave dishonestly in a situation we are more likely to act that way ourselves.

The generation gap

The study revealed that the 55+ age group is always more likely to rate less honest behaviours as unacceptable. On the other hand, those who are 18-34 years old are either more likely to tolerate or condone this type of behaviour or not able to decide if the behaviour is acceptable or not.







Purchasing stolen goods



Taking credit for something that you didn’t do



Lying on a job application



Cheating on an exam paper



Speeding in 30 mph zone



Driving whilst over the (alcohol) limit



Falsifying injuries to make an insurance claim




“One possibility is that, in the internet age, the younger cohort has grown up with less strict enforcement of and consistency in these social norms,” explains Dr. Ludvig.

Are Millennials going to get away with blaming dishonesty on technology? Not quite. Dr. Ludvig explains that there might also be “higher levels of exploration and experimentation in the younger cohort - which might entail challenging social norms and engaging in dishonest behaviour.”

According to him, younger people are more likely to engage in dishonest behaviours than their elders “because they will benefit from anything they learn or discover.”

Not-so victimless crimes

“In some ways, it is actually surprising that people ever act honestly,” says Dr. Ludvig. “People often act dishonestly, but only a little. They speed a little or exaggerate the size of an insurance claim.” According to him, the most common reason to act dishonestly is personal gain.

“The temptation of financial or personal gain often causes people to wrestle with decisions, while others turn a blind eye entirely – especially when the immediate impact of their actions is not apparent,” says Townend.

There is also significant consequences for exaggerated insurance claims which can cause an extraordinary domino effect. Whiplash insurance claims are currently nearing record levels in the UK. Whiplash claims add around £93 on the average motorist’s premium withAviva data indicating that over 10% of these claims are tainted by fraud.

Over eight in ten people we surveyed found falsifying injuries on an insurance claim unacceptable, however, Aviva is currently investigating around 14,000 suspect whiplash claims.

“It’s great to see that false whiplash claims are completely unacceptable for the vast majority of Brits, however there’s no such thing as victimless crime,” says Rob Townend, Claims Director at Aviva UK, “it just takes a few bad apples to spoil it for the rest of us.”

Take our morality test here and see how you compare with the nation

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