Civic honesty supported by research on lost and found

Elliot Wang
news editor

The lost and found of the school is located in the main office. Its purpose is to allow missing items to be brought in so that students may relocate them.
“If a student finds a lost item they can just go [to the main office] and place it in [the] boxes,” secretary Jennifer Hicks said.

If an item is found after the main office closes, “[students] can always try to find one of the mateneince workers, who we do have night shift workers, and give it to them,” Hicks said.

The items in the lost and found are usually taken from the hallways, as teachers will usually keep found items in their classrooms. “I don’t know if there is a school policy on what to do with items left behind. I think the teacher uses their discretion to figure out what would probably be best, I typically leave the items in my classroom in a visible spot so that way maybe the next day a student will see their [missing item],” English teacher Daniel Pecoraro said.

Although some may argue that students may be likely to steal valuable items if they are left behind, there is data that suggests otherwise.
A study performed by Alain Cohn, Michel André Maréchal, David Tannenbaum, and Christian Lukas Zünd reported the opposite is true. The study states that “[i]n virtually all countries, citizens were more likely to return wallets that contained more money. Neither nonexperts nor professional economists were able to predict this result. Additional data suggest that our main findings can be explained by a combination of altruistic concerns and an aversion to viewing oneself as a thief, both of which increase with the material benefits of dishonesty.”

This data was attained by conducting field experiments. This was done in 355 cities, and in order to ensure a lack of bias, these cities were located in 40 countries across the world.

According to Pam Belluck of The New York Times, “For the study, researchers planted 17,303 wallets in 355 cities on every continent except Antarctica.” The study “found [that people] are actually more likely to return lost wallets containing money. And the more money, the better the chances people will return it.” The wallets contained business cards, a grocery list, and a varying amount of money.

Despite this data, it is still possible that an item might be stolen, or that an item simply may not be given to the main office. If the item is valuable, “security will hold valuable items as well,” Hicks said.

There are some ways to avoid losing items. “I think by using lockers more often and placing their personal items in those lockers, I think it could help with a lot of the items ending up in lost and found,” Pecoraro said.

The lost and found empties all items when the semester changes. The items in it are then donated to “different charities,” Hicks said. Students should therefore pick up any missing items in the before the next semester.

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