David Stuart

Aussies pinch grapes and download illegally

WE TELL ourselves we are good people but are we really? Maybe not.

Australians are happy to download shows illegally, sneak the occasional supermarket grape, create a fake America iTunes profile for an app but are less likely to use a stolen credit card for online purchases.

All four of these are illegal - in the case of the iTunes work-around, it breaches a handful of international laws too - yet it can feel justified.

Far from simply making us feel guilty about quiet indiscretions, the work could help prevent needless deaths when disasters strike.

Queensland University of Technology research Paula Dootson said while the extreme ends of right and wrong might be clear cut, everything else was up for debate.

"As a society we can agree on the polar opposities, what is acceptable, what isn't, but when it comes to everything in between the line blurs on what is right and what is wrong," she said.

In her survey, Aussies were given 10 acts to rank from most acceptable to least acceptable.

Returning something to a shop by falsely claiming it was a gift was relatively acceptable despite being a "policy violation".

Having four people stay in a hotel while telling management there would only be two was also seen by Australians as being more acceptable than not.

Illegally downloading a television show was right on the line.

Ms Dootson said it might be about seeing the victim.

"If you took $10 out of someone's wallet, you're going to perceive that as being so much more wrong than if you take an equivalent $10 television show," she said.

"You can't see what happens when you take one grape, but it costs the supermarket $300 a week.

Ms Dootson is now looking at creative ways to encourage people to do the right thing, working with bushfire experts to help find the best way to reach those in danger and have them react safely.