Be Good. (You’re Being Watched.)


New research suggests that when people are being watched, even by eyes that they know aren’t real (like Honest Abe above), they tend to behave better than otherwise.

The main idea seems to be that our evolution has prepared us to act differently when we see eyes on us. On the other hand, human evolution hasn’t caught up to our technology to reproduce eyes in pictures.

So even when we know we’re not looking at the real thing, our deepest, unexpressed, unacknowledged, thoughts are affected.

The study was performed by checking how much people paid to an honesty box for their “hot” drinks. Sometimes there was a picture of a flower above the box; sometimes it was a picture of eyes (they tried lots of different pictures of eyes, but they all looked at the drinkers). They then checked how much milk was used vs. how much money was in the box.

Turns out that there was more money for the missing milk when the eyes were watching.

Got a few questions:

One: Why did they measure how much milk was used, rather than how much tea or coffee? I assume that the milk was used in the tea or coffee, and that people weren’t just drinking the milk. Maybe I’m wrong.

Two: How to do they know that people don’t tend to drink more milk when being watched by eyes, rather than tend to act more honestly?

Three: How do they know that people don’t underpay when watched by flowers?

Four: How do they know that people don’t overpay (rather than act honestly) when watched by eyes?

[If you really want to know more, you can visit the actual journal where the report was published and pay 30 bucks for the study.]

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