A team from Newcastle University, found that people put 276% more money into an “honesty box” when they were being watched by a pair of eyes on a poster, compared with a poster that featuredan image of flowers. This experiment was the first in providing evidence, from a naturalistic setting, of the importance of cues of being watched on human cooperative behavior.
Theporpoise of this experiment was investigate whether cues of being watched can increase contributions to a public good in a real-world setting where people have the option of contributing or not, usingtheir own money.
The hypothesis formulated by the team was that participants will contribute more money to an honesty box in the presence of an image of a pair of eyes than in the presenceof an image of flowers (control image).
* The 'honesty box'
An honesty box is a system of payment which relies on consumers honesty to pay a specified price for goods or services.Nobody verifies if the people are paying or if they are paying the right amount.
* The poster
An A5 poster was placed above the honesty box, listing prices of tea, coffee and milk. The posteralso featured an image banner, across the top, of flowers or eyes.
The researchers, Dr Melissa Bateson and her colleagues Drs Daniel Nettle and Gilbert Roberts, of the Evolution andBehaviour Research Group in the School of Biology and Psychology, made use of the 'honesty box' arrangement, made to pay for hot drinks in a common room, which was running for many years by the time theexperiment was done; so there was no reason to suspect an experiment was taking place.
An A5 poster was placed above the honesty box and this alternated each week between different pictures of flowersand 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 subject. The images of the eyes and flowers were...