Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences






e2213824120 (1-9)


Cohn et al. (2019) conducted a wallet drop experiment in 40 countries to measure "civic honesty around the globe," which has received worldwide attention but also sparked controversies over using the email response rate as the sole metric of civic honesty. Relying on the lone measurement may overlook cultural differences in behaviors that demonstrate civic honesty. To investigate this issue, we conducted an extended replication study in China, utilizing email response and wallet recovery to assess civic honesty. We found a significantly higher level of civic honesty in China, as measured by the wallet recovery rate, than reported in the original study, while email response rates remained similar. To resolve the divergent results, we introduce a cultural dimension, individualism versus collectivism, to study civic honesty across diverse cultures. We hypothesize that cultural differences in individualism and collectivism could influence how individuals prioritize actions when handling a lost wallet, such as contacting the wallet owner or safeguarding the wallet. In reanalyzing Cohn et al.'s data, we found that email response rates were inversely related to collectivism indices at the country level. However, our replication study in China demonstrated that the likelihood of wallet recovery was positively correlated with collectivism indicators at the provincial level. Consequently, relying solely on email response rates to gauge civic honesty in cross-country comparisons may neglect the vital individualism versus collectivism dimension. Our study not only helps reconcile the controversy surrounding Cohn et al.'s influential field experiment but also furnishes a fresh cultural perspective to evaluate civic honesty.


Copyright © 2023 the Authors.

This open access article is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

Data Availability

Article states: Data files, with excel csv format “Replication experiment and others_data (csv file).csv”; “Online national representative survey_data (csv file).csv”, are attached in the Supporting Information, which are also available in the public repository with link as: (72).

Original Publication Citation

Yang, Q., Zhang, W., Liu, S., Gong, W., Han, Y., Lu, J., Jiang, D., Nie, J., Lyu, X., Liu, R., Jiao, M., Qu, C., Zhang, M., Sun, Y., Zhou, X., & Zhang, Q. (2023). Unraveling controversies over civic honesty measurement: An extended field replication in China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(29), 1-9, Article e2213824120.


0000-0002-8513-1573 (Zhang)