If you lose your wallet, this might determine if you get it back

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Baby picturesWhat's in your wallet? According to Richard Wiseman, Ph.D. of UK-based University of Hertfordshire, it could make the difference in someone's decision to return it if it's lost.

As noted in July's issue of Redbook magazine, the best selling author of The Luck Factorand Quirkologyconducted an experiment on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, in which he planted 240 wallets in high-traffic areas: 120 carried photos in their plastic sleeves, 120 did not. None of the wallets held money.

Carefully avoiding locations and situations that might deter good intentions (i.e. trash cans, dog droppings, mail boxes, vomit), a whopping 82% of wallets containing baby pictures were returned.

Puppy lovers, families and seniors weren't as fortunate. Compassionate strangers returned 53% of wallets that carried pictures of dogs, 48% of wallets showing a family photo, and only 28% of wallets carrying a photo of an elderly couple. Harsh.

Wallets indicating charitable contributions inspired only a 20% return rate.

Those faring the worst, however, were photo and charitable-contribution free. Only 15% of wallets without pictures were returned. Is it easier to ignore people we can't relate to?
The study seems especially timely, given that last month, UK-based credit card protection providers CPP released the results of a new, commissioned report. The study estimated that a whopping 5 million wallets have been lost in the UK within the past five years. (What is the British fascination with wallets?) The research also revealed that although three-fifths of the population claimed they would hand in, or "track down" the owner of a lost wallet, 77 percent of those who lost one, said they never saw it again.

CPP also commissioned PCP Research to conduct a nationwide social experiment similar to Wiseman's in which they dropped 20 purses and wallets in five UK cities. The items were left in shopping centers, parking lots, museums, cafes and on busy streets and public transportation. Only two in ten were returned to their rightful owners. Only half (55 percent) contained the original amount of money they had carried.

In addition, the study found that the best city to lose your wallet is in London (each wallet returned in London still contained its original sum of money), while the worst places include trains, buses and cafes.

No word how many of those people never saw their wallets again. Still, it makes perfect sense that if you want a lost wallet back, your best hope might rest with a photo of a bouncing baby tucked in the billfold.

"The baby picture seems to have kicked off a caring feeling in people," Wiseman told UK-based journalist Hannah Devlin at The Times, "which is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective.".

Devlin notes a recent study at the University of Oxford also indicated that, "activity in the section of the brain associated with empathy was much more responsive to baby faces than to adult faces."

Bottom line, pad your wallet with a couple of endearing pics. "If you want to increase the chances of your wallet being returned if lost, obtain a photograph of the cutest baby you can find," Wiseman said, "and ensure that it is prominently displayed."
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