Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Eyes Induce Honesty

So if you want to promote honest social behavior, maybe you don't need to install closed-circuit cameras everywhere, spy on your populace, and generally turn into a police state. Maybe you could just paint eyes on everything:

A team from Newcastle University found people put nearly three times as much money into an 'honesty box' when they were being watched by a pair of eyes on a poster, compared with a poster that featured an image of flowers...

...For this experiment, lead researcher Dr Melissa Bateson and her colleagues Drs Daniel Nettle and Gilbert Roberts, of the Evolution and Behaviour Research Group in the School of Biology and Psychology at Newcastle University, made use of a long-running 'honesty box' arrangement.

This had been operating as a way of paying for hot drinks in a common room used by around 48 staff for many years, so users had no reason to suspect an experiment was taking place.

An A5 poster was placed above the honesty box, listing prices of tea, coffee and milk. The poster also featured an image banner across the top, and this alternated each week between different pictures of flowers and images of eyes.

The eye pictures varied in the sex and head orientation but were all chosen so that the eyes were looking directly at the observer.

Each week the research team recorded the total amount of money collected and the volume of milk consumed as this was considered to be the best index available of total drink consumption.

The team then calculated the ratio of money collected to the volume of milk consumed in each week. On average, people paid 2.76 as much for their drinks on the weeks when the poster featured pictures of eyes.

I think there are clear ways to implement this knowledge, starting by painting giant faces on every wall of the White House & the Capitol building.

Trying to build a creepier society since 1978.

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