A study has found that people who were brought up under a communist regime were more likely to lie and cheat and those who were raised under capitalism.
The Economist reports that research by Duke University and the University of Munich found that Germans raised in the old communist East Germany were more likely to lie for personal gain than those raised in the West.
Researchers invited participants to take part in simple game with a prize of €6 (£5/$8). They were asked to roll a die 40 times and record each roll, with a higher overall tally winning a bigger payoff.
Before every roll, they had to choose whether they wanted the record the number on the top or bottom of the die. Then, after rolling, they had to write down the number that was on the side they had chosen. However, they did not have to tell anyone which side they had chosen before rolling, making it very easy to cheat by rolling first and then pretending to have selected the higher-scoring side.
For example, if they had picked the top side and then rolled a two, they would have more incentive to lie and say they had chosen the bottom side, which would score them five.
Researchers expected honest participants to roll low numbers as often as high numbers, however some players recorded a surprisingly large percentage of high numbers, suggesting they may have cheated.
The research team found that, on average, those who were from the former East Germany were more likely to have cheated than those from the West. They also analysed how long the participants had lived in East Germany and found that the longer they had been exposed to Communism, the more likely they were to cheat.
Although the research doesn’t show a conclusive causal link between socialism and cheating, it does suggest the relative poverty suffered by the East Germans may have made them more desperate to secure extra resources for themselves. As the Economist concludes: “When it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one.”