Theory and Decision

, Volume 79, Issue 2, pp 285–306 | Cite as

Eyes on social norms: A field study on an honor system for newspaper sale

  • Thomas Brudermann
  • Gregory Bartel
  • Thomas Fenzl
  • Sebastian Seebauer
Article

Abstract

Honor systems are a cheap and simple way for marketing low-price goods. These sale systems are dependent on the honesty of customers and can only tolerate a certain share of free-riders. In an experimental field study, we investigate a case where honesty has almost disappeared, namely an honor system for the sale of newspapers on weekends. In the chosen urban study area, only a minority of customers comply with payment norms. In this difficult setting, we tested the use of eye images and descriptive social norms as cues to improving payment morale over a period of 24 weeks. We find that interventions based on eye cues as well as normative appeals do not evoke a transition from low to high levels of honesty. However, our results suggest that such interventions might still have the potential to marginally increase mean payments and therefore be economically profitable for operators of large-scale honor systems.

Keywords

Honor system Social norms Eye images Newspaper sale Free-riding 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the involved distribution company for their support in implementing this study. Melissa Bateson generously granted permission to re-use one eye image from the original studies. We furthermore thank Jürgen Fleiss, Angelika Wolf and Manfred Füllsack for their valuable comments. Constructive suggestions provided by two anonymous reviewers substantially improved this paper.

References

  1. Bateson, M., Nettle, D., & Roberts, G. (2006). Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting. Biology Letters, 2, 412–414.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bortz, J. (1989). Statistik für Sozialwissenschaftler [Statistics for Social Scientists] (3rd ed.). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.MATHGoogle Scholar
  4. Ernest-Jones, M., Nettle, D., & Bateson, M. (2011). Effects of eye images on everyday cooperative behavior: A field experiment. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2, 172–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fehr, E., Fischbacher, U., & Gächter, S. (2002). Strong reciprocity, human cooperation and the enforcement of social norms. Human Nature, 13, 1–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415(10), 137–140.CrossRefPubMedADSGoogle Scholar
  7. Fehr, E., & Schneider, F. (2010). Eyes are on us, but nobody cares: Are eye cues relevant for strong reciprocity? Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 277(1686), 1315–1323. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1900.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Fischbacher, U., Gächter, S., & Fehr, E. (2001). Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment. Economics Letters, 71(3), 397–404.MATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Francey, D., & Bergmüller, R. (2012). Images of eyes enhance investments in a real-life public good. PLOS One, 7(5), e37397. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037397.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedADSGoogle Scholar
  10. Goldstein, N. J., Cialdini, R. B., & Griskevicius, V. (2008). A room with a viewpoint: Using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(3), 472–482. doi: 10.1086/586910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grüter, T., Grüter, M., & Carbon, C.-C. (2008). Neural and genetic foundations of face recognition and prosopagnosia. Journal of Neuropsychology, 2, 79–97.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Haan, M., & Kooreman, P. (2002). Free riding and the provision of candy bars. Journal of Public Economics, 83(2), 277–291. doi: 10.1016/S0047-2727(00)00157-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Haley, K. J., & Fessler, D. M. T. (2005). Nobody’s watching? Evolution and Human Behavior, 26(3), 245–256. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2005.01.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Henderson, J. M., Williams, C. C., & Falk, R. J. (2005). Eye movements are functional during face learning. Memory & Cognition, 33, 98–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ishai, A., Schmidt, C. F., & Boesiger, P. (2005). Face perception is mediated by a distributed cortical network. Brain Research Bulletin, 67(1–2), 87–93. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2005.05.027.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Jack, R. E., Caldara, R., & Schyns, P. G. (2012). Internal representations reveal cultural diversity in expectations of facial expressions of emotion. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 141(1), 19–25. doi: 10.1037/a0023463.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Janik, S. W., Wellens, A. R., Goldberg, M. L., & Dell’Osso, L. F. (1978). Eyes as the center of focus in the visual examination of human faces. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47, 857–858.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kanwisher, N., McDermott, J., & Chun, M. M. (1997). The fusiform face area: A module in human extrastriate cortex specialized for face perception. The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 17(11), 4302–4311.Google Scholar
  19. Keil, M. S. (2009). “‘I look in your eyes, honey”’: Internal face features induce spatial frequency preference for human face processing. PLOS Computational Biology, 5(3), e1000329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000329.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedADSGoogle Scholar
  20. Keizer, K., Lindenberg, S., & Steg, L. (2008). The spreading of disorder. Science, 322(5908), 1681–1685. doi: 10.1126/science.1161405.CrossRefPubMedADSGoogle Scholar
  21. Levitt, S. D., & List, J. A. (2007). What do laboratory experiments measuring social preferences reveal about the real world? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 153–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Malhotra, D. (2010). (When) are religious people nicer? Religious salience and the “Sunday effect” on pro-social behavior. Judgment and Decision Making, 5(2), 138–143.MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  23. Meng, M., Cherian, T., Singal, G., & Sinha, P. (2012). Lateralization of face processing in the human brain. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279(1735), 2052–2061. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1784.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Nettle, D., Harper, Z., Kidson, A., Stone, R., Penton-Voak, I. S., & Bateson, M. (2013). The watching eyes effect in the Dictator Game: it’s not how much you give, it’s being seen to give something. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(1), 35–40. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.08.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nettle, D., Nott, K., & Bateson, M. (2012). “Cycle thieves, we are watching you”: Impact of a simple signage intervention against bicycle theft. PLOS ONE, 7(12), e51738. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051738.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedADSGoogle Scholar
  26. Piff, P. K., Stancato, D. M., Côté, S., Mendoza-Denton, R., & Keltner, D. (2012). Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(11), 4086–91. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118373109.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Pruckner, G. J., & Sausgruber, R. (2013). Honesty on the streets: A field study on newspaper purchasing. Journal of the European Economic Association, 11(3), 661–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Raihani, N. J., & Bshary, R. (2012). A positive effect of flowers rather than eye images in a large-scale, cross-cultural dictator game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 3556–3564. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0758.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Schlüter, A., & Vollan, B. (2011). Morals as an incentive? A field study on honour based flower picking. European Review of Agricultural Economics, 38(1), 79–97. doi: 10.1093/erae/jbq045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schultz, P. W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., & Griskevicius, V. (2007). The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological Science, 18(5), 429–34. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01917.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Thøgersen, J. (2008). Social norms and cooperation in real-life social dilemmas. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(4), 458–472. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2007.12.004.
  32. Walker-Smith, G. J., Gale, A. G., & Findlay, J. M. (1977). Eye movement strategies involved in face perception. Perception, 6(3), 313–326.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Brudermann
    • 1
  • Gregory Bartel
    • 2
  • Thomas Fenzl
    • 2
  • Sebastian Seebauer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GrazGrazAustria
  2. 2.University of KlagenfurtKlagenfurt am WörtherseeAustria

Personalised recommendations