Baby pictures in lost wallets increase the chance they will be returned


30 Responses to “Baby pictures in lost wallets increase the chance they will be returned”

  1. Onigorom says:

    @16 & @24
    You are the only ones here to detect the obvious flaw of this ‘scientific’ study. The whole point of wallets is the money that s inside. So if you want to find out what a picture of a baby does to the return rate you have to make a series of placements that consider the amount and – I agree – the various kinds of depictions of babies (or perhaps other persons, too).

    So, let s say you have a beautiful baby and 1.000 Euros in the wallet compared to a wallet with 0 Euros. Then you have an ugly baby (or just a bad photograph of the same child) with and without money and so on. After all these permutations you may perhaps be able to find correlations or even conclusions about the nature of human ethics, but the above is sensationalist effect-ism.

  2. vamidus says:

    Interesting. I’d never thought lost valets w baby pictures compel baby snatchers to return the babies.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Its true for lost cell phones too…..mine got lost twice……returned after seeing my baby’s pictures…..

    I think the study is great…

  4. jridley says:

    There’s got to be a base level of returns regardless of content as well. I’ve found 3 wallets, and I never look through the contents except enough to find some ID, which is usually not buried very deep. I find the ID, if they’re nearby, I drop it off, if not, I drop it at a police station (post office would also do, they’re required to attempt to return personal items to the owners).

  5. Angstrom says:

    I think I’ll opt for a baby, elderly couple, puppy combo.

    Now, I’m not good at calculating compound odds but a rough estimation says that combo adds up to a 189% return.
    So, the finder will be obliged to send me their own wallet contents in addition to returning mine.


  6. Snig says:

    Thanks for two stories in a row on goodness of humanity. (Insurance story and this.) Very tempted to stop reading now.

  7. misterfricative says:

    Based on the experimental design, the obvious interpretation is that the finders weren’t returning lost wallets, they were returning lost photos.

    Stuff the wallets with cash and plastic and then see what happens.

    I did enjoy this hilarious quote (misquote??) from Dr Wiseman though: ‘If you find a baby alone, there is a good chance it belongs to you’. I wonder if Dr Wiseman has ever considered a second career as a trial lawyer?

  8. Uhclem says:

    Toronto Star did this experiment last year, and got 85% return with no pictures. Just saying.

  9. arbitraryaardvark says:

    I wonder if they refunded the postage for the samaritans. Meanwhile, I’m off to rent a baby.

  10. Anonymous says:

    =! that means ‘does not equal’.

    whooooooooo look at me

  11. Anonymous says:

    A homeless man tracked me down from his support center to return my laptop. Part of it was that he couldn’t just take it when he saw the picture of my fiance (at the time) and I the moment we got engaged.

  12. chgoliz says:

    Mister Fricative @ #16:

    I did enjoy this hilarious quote (misquote??) from Dr Wiseman though: ‘If you find a baby alone, there is a good chance it belongs to you’.

    Evolutionarily speaking. Our brains weren’t wired 3 years ago. Yeah, now we’re surrounded by millions of total strangers, but for virtually all of the last 50,000 years, the statement is accurate.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think the wallets with the baby pictures being returned have anything to do with the attractiveness of the child or the emotion that seeing a baby’s photo can bring. I believe the reasons more of the baby photo wallets were returned than the others have more to do with the responsibilities of the owner of the wallet. A baby means this person is a parent with mouths to feed, and probably needs the money. Return the wallet. Cards indicating they give to charity? They have money, so keep the wallet. Or take the dough out and drop the wallet in the post office. Just my two cents.

  14. Takuan says:

    I leave polaroids of posed,spectacularly bloody murder scenes in old thrift store wallets and then follow home whoever picks them up. After I get their phone number I call anonymously and ask if they found a wallet. It’s way more fun than bee-keeping.

  15. Anonymous says:

    As if the 200$ in my stolen wallet wasn’t enough, the person decided to swipe my credit card at a gas station. I’m a mother and wife. I guess some people really don’t care though what you have in their wallet, they just suck as human beings.

  16. Hargrimm says:

    @JRidley – The base return rate for the ‘control wallet’ was 12%. Obviously, there aren’t many people like you finding wallets in Edinburgh!

    This reminds me of the experiment that showed a photo of eyes above the jar would make people more likely to pay at a self-serve restaurant.

  17. Hanglyman says:

    Snig, I can see how more people returning wallets than they expected can be seen as “goodness of humanity”, but I find this story more disturbing than heartwarming. The message seems to be that people dehumanize people who don’t breed. I’m sure people without children would like their wallets back just as much.

  18. Pantograph says:

    Look on the bright side. They finally found a good use for baby pictures!

    The sad part is that the pictures have to be of your own baby, or else you’ll be instantly promoted to suspected paedophile.

  19. dragonfrog says:

    The thing I find most surprising is that they found an overall 42% rate of return surprisingly high.

    Did anyone here not find it surprisingly low? Is Edinburgh a city of nihilists (with a soft spot for babies and puppies)?

  20. Anonymous says:

    correlation =! causation. I’m suspicious of the simplification taking place in the test and I have a feeling that the return rate could be explained in a much better way by actually finding out who the returnees are. This experiment seems like it was shaped by a pre-formed conclusion too.

  21. razordaze says:

    Years ago my friend found a wallet on the bus, and was planning on returning it, along with the $150 or so in cash. It actually did have a bunch of pictures of young kids in it.

    And then his roommate rifled through it more thoroughly and found the registered sex offender card in there, and those pictures started to seem really creepy.

  22. misterfricative says:

    @Chgoliz, I don’t have a problem with the evolutionary point he’s trying to make but I do have a problem with the quoted statement.

    You say that ‘for virtually all of the last 50,000 years, the statement is accurate’, but back when our ancestors were evolving on the African savannah, how many solitary babies would they have kept running into? And if that ever did happen, what’s the likelihood that the baby would turn out to belong to the finder?

    There’s no evolutionary pressure in this scenario, just bad parenting.

  23. Snig says:

    Dammit! Knew I should have stopped reading.

    Good point. My wallet contains business card for the optometrist who fits me with my rose-colored glasses.

  24. TroofSeeker says:

    Here in the US, if you find a wallet, you can just drop it in a mailbox.
    If I found one with money in it, I would pull the money out and put in a note with my phone number, so they could call me and get their money back. Just to keep the post office honest.
    [BTW- I did find one once with nearly $400 in it. I found the owner, and the joy in his face was worth the money.]

  25. LogrusZed says:

    Depends on the kind of pictures of babies. The party van might bring your wallet back to you.

    Hey, this site dosen’t log IP’s does it?

  26. apoxia says:

    An average 42% return rate doesn’t seem high to me. An unscientific study in the largest New Zealand cities had a 80%-100% return rate depending on the city. I live in the city with the 100% return rate.

  27. Simeon says:

    Side note: Derren Brown for Guest blogger pleeze?

  28. TroofSeeker says:

    Come to think of it, the only time I ever lost my wallet, I was out surfing with a buddy when his car was broken into and our wallets were stolen. Mine had no money in it, and it came home in the mail. My buddy’s did have cash and never came back. I suspect that mine was mailed because I wasn’t robbed, but my buddy was robbed so the evidence was destroyed.

  29. WalterBillington says:

    @14 Fab idea – yes.

    Is there any evidence for disparities in return rates according to the attractiveness of the baby? Would ugly (pity) or pretty (love) babies have higher rates?

    Just askin’. After all – evolution didn’t breed us to foster relations with unattractive specimens.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I found a wallet belonging a couple of years ago with 2 IDs in it for 2 different people, neither of which resolved to a real address. Turned out that when I googled the last name on the ID with the *under-21 birthdate*, I found the college kid’s parents, who had moved across town since he left home. :)

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