Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Eyes of Honesty

Continuing with another nugget from last Sunday's NYTimes magazine... In the psychology department at Newcastle University, there is a coffee station where people can help themselves, so long as they leave money in the tray. Contributions were disappointing until a picture of a flower above the station was replaced by a picture of staring eyes. During weeks the eyes rather than the flowers were above the station, people contributed 2.7 times more for coffee and tea. Apparently even the feeling of being watched was enough to encourage people to behave more honestly. The paper describing this effect paper prompted a British police department in Birmingham to slap posters of eyes around the city as part of a campaign called “We’ve Got Our Eyes on Criminals.” The researchers are studying the campaign to see if the posters have an effect on things like car crime and vandalism.

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