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Honesty put to the test in the Tri-State with 'What Would You Do?' on Fountain Square

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CINCINNATI -- Do you trust your neighbor? New research says most American's don't trust each other.

According to an AP-GfK poll conducted last month, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

When faced with a situation, will people do the right thing when no one's looking? It's a question WCPO wanted to get answered.

On Tuesday, a boy from Blanchester was rewarded for turning in money he found on the street two years ago. No one claimed it, so police are giving it back to him.

Then there's a rabbi who found $98,000 inside a desk bought on Craigslist.

And back in September, Glen James, a homeless man from Boston, turned in a backpack filled with more than $40,000 in cash to authorities.

For his honesty, Americans rewarded him with a fund of $92,000.

WCPO talked to ABC's "What Would You Do?" host John Quiñones about what he's seen in his seven years of watching people.

"I'm still inspired by society more often than not," Quiñones said. "People do the right thing, everyday heroes step up and do something really impressive sometimes at risk to themselves."

Quiñones' inspiration for the show sprang from "The Ethicist," Randy Cohen's former New York Times column answering questions from readers about ethical situations.

In 400 "What Would You Do?" scenarios, the show's crew keenly observed what bystanders do: Intervene or pass by -- and how they do it.

With millions of views on YouTube, "What Would You Do?" has become a conversation starter in families and across the globe. At its core, it's about the courage it takes to do the right thing, and the fundamental values of integrity.

Quiñones said women and people with a personal connection are more likely to step in.

"We find that if you can connect with the victim -- you're a woman who was abused, gay person, Hispanic, African American -- you connect with them and you respond much more quickly," he said.

Quiñones said the show also shines a light on stereotypes that still exist in some form in our country.

"You and I...we might go into a store and if we're not dressed well, we might be followed around and when we complain about it other people will say 'that doesn't happen,'" he said. "Well we put a hidden camera on it and we show you how it really does happen."

Meanwhile, WCPO wanted to put Cincinnatians to the test, so we set up our own "What Would You Do?" on Fountain Square.

With two hidden cameras and one in plain sight, WCPO watched what people did when they saw a $50 bill fall from our producer's pocket.

There were people who couldn't be bothered and just walked right over the bill. Then there were some people that picked it up and put it in their own pockets. A women who picked up the bill -- with two children by her side -- said, "Well if you see money on the ground, wouldn't you pick it up?"

We are happy to report the majority of people who saw the money fall picked it up and returned it.

"I would want someone to do that for me, It's the thing you should do," said one woman who handed the bill back to WCPO's producer.

There was even a gentleman who broke out into a sprint to ensure the money was returned.

C.S. Lewis said, "integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching."

The Tri-State did the right thing, and we were watching.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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