Science has proven what we all knew – Bankers are generally more dishonest than people in other professions.

In a controversial and I am sure far reaching study a team of Swiss economists tested people from different occupations for their level of honesty.

Players were asked to flip a coin 10 times. Each time they flipped the coin they were told they would win $20 if their result matched the researchers predicted answer. Of course each result should have a 50 per cent chance of being correct.

Image: infospace.ischool.syr.edu

Image: infospace.ischool.syr.edu

What was interesting about the study was that players were primed before beginning their series of 10 flips. Prior to one session they were asked about their home life. Prior to a second session they were asked about their work life. In each instance they began their series of flips thinking about either their home or work place/ life.

When asked about their work place/life bankers matched the researchers’ responses the predicted 50 per cent of the time. But when asked about work they matched the researchers’ 58 per cent of the time.

Ernst Fehr, of the University of Zurich and author of the study published in Nature, said, “Bank employees are not more dishonest than others.” But when they think about their line of work and workplace culture something “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The study was conducted with 430 banking employees from two banks. The questions about their job didn’t seem to have any impact on the result.

Response to the study has been divided: Six experts in psychology and business ethics have endorsed it to varying degrees. Dan Ariely, Professor of behavioural Economics at Duke University, suggest bankers be made to take an honesty oath, similar to a Hippocratic Oath for doctors. While Michael Cunningham, of a Psychologist from the University of Louisville, believed the study was too broad in its conclusions, but fascinating nonetheless.

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