Cute Baby Photos Can Help Recover Lost Wallets

Strangers are more likely to return lost wallets containing photos of cute babies, according to British researchers. The scientists sprinkled 240 wallets across Edinburgh last year with pictures of either a smiling baby, a puppy, a “happy family,” or a “contended elderly couple.” It turns out nobody cares about your pooch, retired parents, or smugly superior family life. But that cute wittle baby? Apparently it triggers a “compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations.” Finally, an everyday use for evolution!

When faced with the photograph of the baby people were far more likely to send the wallet back, the study found. In fact, only one in ten were hearthearted enough not to do so. With no picture to tug at the emotions, just one in seven were sent back.

According to Dr Wiseman the result reflects a compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations. “The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people, which is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective,” he said.

Scientists argue that it would be difficult to genetically code for feeling empathy exclusively towards your own child and much easier to code for feeling empathy towards all children. If you find a baby alone, there is a good chance it belongs to you, making it an effective evolutionary trait, said Dr Wiseman.

Who knew wallet photos could be so useful?

Want to keep your wallet? Carry a baby picture [Times Online]
(Photo: yoshimov)


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    What if it’s not your baby? Is that grounds for some kind of child porn accusation? Maybe I could be vain and use a photo of me as a child…”no, it only looks like the 80s.”

    • Nick1693 says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I guess you could take pictures of neighbors/relatives kids. Or buy exclusivity on some iStockPhoto or Getty Images baby pics, but make sure the photographer is nowhere near you or anywhere you intend to go.

    • KeepingTheForeName_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Also, don’t use photos of your baby holding a gun or sitting on a towel with pot leaves. That never ends well.

    • I Love New Jersey says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Surely you have some annoying relatives you never see (save for funerals) who send you wallet sized pictures of their kids along with some sort of form letters for some reason. This seems like a perfect use for those photos.

      I have also heard having pictures of kids in wallet also makes you more marketable to the ladies.

      • lincolnparadox says:

        @I Love New Jersey: Because every girl wants a divorced dad for some Saturday Night Strange?

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @lincolnparadox: I think they’re meant to be, like, nieces and nephews. My brother is definitely getting more action now that he has a picture of my baby in his wallet and on his desk and can drop into every conversation, “My sister just had a baby!”

          I think it makes him sound like a devoted family man who one day would be the sort of stable guy who has kids, but just NOW he’s the sort of fun guy you want to get smashed with and then do things I refuse to think about in connection with my brother.

          • MostlyHarmless says:

            @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): My sister just had a baby too!!

            Now I just need to find some single females. You or Pecan 3.14 know any?

            • MostlyHarmless says:

              @MostlyHarmless: stupid image embedding didnt work


              • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

                @MostlyHarmless: awwwwwwww!

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @MostlyHarmless: Aww^2
                Although I’m mystified by the warning label. If it belongs to the seat then shouldn’t it be removed? If it belongs on the baby then the labeler needs spectacles.

                (I’m off the belief that all children should have warning labels until 18.
                Preferably marked with a dry erase pen, so it can be edited at ages 0, 2, 6, 14 and 16):
                0: Caution: wear googles, nose clips and gloves before approaching.
                2: Beware of flying objects.
                6: When lost, please return to…
                14: Puberty. Run. No, seriously, Run!
                16: Sharing public highways with this one detrimental to your health.

              • 3DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

                @MostlyHarmless: Shhhhh, tell that blanket to be quiet. The baby is trying to sleep!

          • my secret identity says:

            @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): Exactly. I do things in a similar fashion. I have a nephew (he’s 2 now!) and when he was littler, I would take him to the mall and stuff. Ladies would be all over him. Then after they would say that he looks like me, I would conjure all of my manliness and say “I’m the uncle.” It led to many “Awwwww” and “How cute” statements. I would put on my best smile and and sometimes give a little wink. Girls in their early 20’s are usually soooo attracted to people who take care of kids. (And to be clear, I’m not a pervy old guy who thinks 20 somethings are hot; I’m a normal 19 year old who think 20 somethings are hot.)

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @I Love New Jersey: I actually don’t! It’s perplexing – I don’t have any relatives who send me photos. My mom probably gets them cause none of my distant relatives keep up with my life, so they wouldn’t know where I lived.

        It’s possible that having a baby photo makes you more marketable to the ladies…though as a lady, if I saw a baby photo in a college student’s wallet, my mind wouldn’t be going to “nephew, aw!” I’d probably be scowling a little and looking around for a baby mama to skulk from the bushes and slash my tires.

  2. KeepingTheForeName_GitEmSteveDave says:

    One of my wallets has a photo of one of my Ex’s melted into the plastic. Do you think that would make people feel sorry for me for putting up with her?

  3. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    Now I need to get a wallet size picture printed of my neice!

  4. supercereal says:

    I’d be curious to see what the results in the U.S. would be. I can’t imagine a similar 90% of fellow New Yorkers falling for the ol’ “baby-in-the-wallet” trick.

  5. WraithSama says:

    Wow. I’m almost tempted to acquire a cute baby picture just for the safeguarding of my wallet. I just realized that last sentence doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but whatever.

    Problem is, I have one of those super-small wallets that only holds a few credit/debit cards and just about nothing else. It fits easily in a front pocket, though, making it harder to steal. I’m much more likely to notice someone else’s hand going into a front pocket than someone trying to lift a wallet from the back.

  6. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    The full article stated that no money was left in the wallets. Seems more important than the mere return of a wallet would be the condition it was left in.

    How about including about $10 in each wallet, an ATM card for a major bank, and a 4-digit number on the back of the included photo? Have the accounts be dummy accounts with $0 balances, but if the bank could report if anyone attempted to access the account before returning the wallet. The small amount of cash would test different rates of “basic” honesty, while the ATM card and likely PIN would test comparative risk of major financial loss/identity theft.

    Otherwise, ID, membership cards, photos, and even the wallet itself can generally be replaced without too much trouble. So rates of return in this study really don’t seem to matter a whole lot.

  7. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    @undefined: The babies don’t have to be naked you perv.

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    How about ugly baby photos?
    Cuz, y’know, 50% of ’em out there are quite subpar.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Trai_Dep: Or a baby skin wallet, ‘natch.
      …A wallet dangling from a baby’s ankle shackle?!

    • subtlefrog says:

      @Trai_Dep: Hmmm – being not at all maternal, I think I’d have given preference to the puppy pic, then perhaps to the ugly baby photo, because, well, that’s going to be a tough road, that ugly baby. and yeah, some are quite subpar indeed.

    • Megalomania says:

      @Trai_Dep: well, you can’t really make a claim of 50%; it could be that the attractiveness in babies is distributed such that the vast majority of them are above average (e.g., in a class of 10 students, if 9 of them have 100 on a test and 1 has a 90, then the average is 99 and only 1 is below average).

      • bluewyvern says:

        @Megalomania: If it’s a normal distribution, then it will look like a bell curve, and most babies will be at or near par — half will be below the median, but most of those will still be pretty close.

        Only a small percentage will be “quite” subpar.

        When stocking your wallet, these are the ones to avoid!

  9. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    “Scientists argue that it would be difficult to genetically code for feeling empathy exclusively towards your own child and much easier to code for feeling empathy towards all children.”

    Also, human babies require an insane amount of care because they’re born so immature compared to other monkeys. There’s a theory that humans evolved the ability to cooperate so much in order to care for each other’s babies. A great ape basically carries her baby around for six solid months without a break and if anyone else tries to touch it, she’ll rip their throat out; humans, on the other hand and very unusually, are DELIGHTED to hand over their babies to be admired and cared for by others. So you’d definitely want to code for people to have empathy for all children, or we couldn’t have such an extended infancy for humans.

    Also, I am now finding the cutest baby picture I have to stow in my purse.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): I’m sure that your problem is a surplus of too-cute baby photos. But the one of the frog devouring him would be my personal pick.
      I saw a supporting explanation for our relatively needy offspring posited on one of the History shows, Evolve. Our big, big brains vied against our wimmen-folk’s small, small pelvises in such a way that a compromise was reached (over the ugly course of several iterations of Darwinist experimentation: ouch!). Babies with soft skulls and early ejection from the wombs, relatively.
      Thus we need more care, but by the end of the maturation process, we end up with bigger brains than would otherwise be possible (without 5′ wide pelvises, which would make airline seating even more uncomfortable).

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Trai_Dep: Yep. I admire the compromise evolutionarily, but as a personal matter it’s a little wearing to have a big-brained, wildly immature infant to get out into the world and then care for!!!

        I didn’t realize how many of their systems don’t work 100% right out of the gate … they’re seriously half-finished and still working on crucial systems like “digestion” and “breathing.”

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): We were just talking about it recently, a month or so before my sis was due.

      The theory was, that babies look fairly hideous for the first few weeks, as a natural mechanism for keeping others not much interested in it. They are still very very delicate and require a moms care more than anything else.

      Once they are a bit older, and more resilient, the mom SERIOUSLY needs a break from the baby, and thats when the whole assortment of uncles aunts cousins coworkers friends comes into play to keep the baby entertained while mom takes a much needed break.

      It also keeps the mom from strangling the baby.

    • krista says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): So how about selling some of those cute new baby pictures to your fellow consumerists as wallet protection? You could start a college fund for little McGee with the money.

  10. morlo says:

    I keep my Pirate Party membership card in my wallet, and it has always been returned, especially by ninjas, who force me to pry it out of their hands post mortem.

  11. rinse says:

    If one of the consumerist editors finds your lost wallet, I hope it has a photo of a kitten in there. :P

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      @rinse: I wonder if this works for cellphones as well.. I have LOTS of cute kitty pictures in my phone!

  12. kdui says:

    “In fact, only one in ten were hearthearted enough not to do so.”


  13. henrygates says:

    So at my next interview instead of a suit I should wear a t-shirt with a screenprint of a cute baby on the front.

  14. HogwartsAlum says:

    I have a crazy cute pic of my nephew when he was a baby (he’s 21 now). No one would know that; I should put that one in there.

    Also, I can whip it out when he’s around and embarrass him. :)

  15. H3ion says:

    I always leave the photos that came with the wallet in the wallet. Sometimes I do the same thing for picture frames.

  16. anduin says:

    I’ve found two wallets before, one had like $20 and some cards, no pics, I dropped it off at the lost and found. The 2nd one had several hundred dollars, though I flirted with the idea of taking the money, I decided to call the guy up and had him pick it up from my place. He wanted to give a reward but I refused cause I didn’t have to do anything to earn it.

  17. ponycyndi says:

    *Takes baby photo off desk and puts it into wallet*

  18. bluewyvern says:

    I suddenly feel like I’m in last week’s Torchwood.

    “I need a kid…”

    Now I’m going to go sniffing around after my nieces and nephews I rarely see, trying to feign interest so I can get a picture off them.

  19. mrearly2 says:

    “…an everyday use for evolution!”
    One theory built upon another…