If you lose your wallet, how can you make sure someone will return it? Include a cute baby photo.
If you lose your wallet, how often do you think someone will be kind enough to return it to you, complete with cash and credit cards intact?
Some people may be greedy, and others are simply too lazy to bother with the trip to the post office to send back a wallet to a stranger. But according to a recent psychology study by Dr. Richard Wiseman (author of the fascinating book Quirkology), there’s one thing that’ll greatly increase your odds of being reunited with a lost wallet: a photograph of a cute baby.
In last year’s study, hundreds of wallets were scattered around the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. The psychologists wanted to see how many strangers would take the trouble to return them to the addresses listed on the drivers’ licenses inside—but more than that, they wanted to find out what would make a person more likely to help out a stranger.
To accomplish this, they included personal touches in most of the wallets: some included a photo of a happy elderly couple, some contained a cute puppy, some contained a family portrait, and some held a photo of an adorable baby. Others had receipts showing that the wallet’s owner had recently donated to a charity. Some, as a control group, contained no personal details.
As the psychologists soon discovered, the sight of a smiling baby is enough to warm nearly any heart: only one in 10 of the strangers who retrieved such wallets neglected to return them. In contrast, the second-most successful image, the puppy, boasted only a 53 percent return rate. When the wallet included no photograph, it stood only a one in seven chance of being returned to the owner.
The success of the baby photograph speaks to a human compassion for the young that’s been passed down through the ages, according to Dr. Wiseman. “The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people, which is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective,” he told The Times.
To ensure our species’ survival, scientists claim that we must feel empathy and compassion for our young. Scientists say that this study supports the argument that we won’t feel compassion only for our own babies, but for any that we see—hence, the overwhelming desire a stranger would feel to return a wallet to the baby’s parent.
On a more basic level, the study also provides a great tip to help ensure that if your wallet is ever lost, you’re more than likely to get it back.
“If you want to increase the chances of your wallet being returned if lost, obtain a photograph of the cutest baby you can find, and ensure that it is prominently displayed,” said Dr. Wiseman.