July 23, 2013

Maine ranks near top in lighthearted honesty test

By Karen Antonacci kantonacci@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Maine is one of the most honest states in the country, according to the unscientific results of an honor- system experiment set up in mid-July.

Beverage company Honest Tea set up unattended kiosks around the country July 12 with different Honest Tea drinks and signs asking people to put a dollar in a box if they took a bottle. Employees watched the stands from a discreet distance and kept track of who paid and who didn't.

One stand was set up in Maine – outside the Clam Shack in Kennebunk. And, while the test subjects included tourists and well as Mainers, 99 percent of Kennebunk pedestrians elected to pay the dollar at the kiosk.

Maine's 99-percent honesty rating earned the state a tie with Indiana for second place. Hawaii and Alabama tied for first place, each reporting 100 percent honesty.

“This is a lighthearted look at honesty and a good way to have fun with the topic,” said Honest Tea spokesman Tyler Pearson of the experiment. “Maybe everyone from Maine should give a tourist a hug today.”

Halfway through the Kennebunk experiment, the Honest Tea team covertly watching from across the street reported that they had seen only one person not pay the dollar. “He was a teenager and he was alone," Sivan Gompers, an Honest Tea summer intern and Harvard University student, explained at the time.

That would fit with the other data the company came up with in a report issued Tuesday. People in groups were 96 percent honest while people by themselves were 91 percent honest.

The national honesty average was 92 percent with about 11,700 people participating in the experiment Pearson said.

All states were tested, but only 47 states were ranked. Louisiana, Arizona and Mississippi did not have a state ranking because the sample sizes were too small.

West Virginia was the least-honest state, with 15 percent of people choosing to take a free drink. And, although it’s not a state, the District of Columbia ranked below that, with 20 percent of participants choosing not to pay.

The Honest Tea employees also collected other data on participants, such as gender, hair color, hair length and whether they had facial hair or wore sunglasses.

They reported that women were 4 percent more honest than men. People with blond hair were the most honest at 95 percent and redheads were the least at 92 percent.

Men with a five o'clock shadow were only 88 percent honest, it said.

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