Advertisement

Human Nature

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 390–401 | Cite as

Eyes, More Than Other Facial Features, Enhance Real-World Donation Behavior

  • Caroline Kelsey
  • Amrisha VaishEmail author
  • Tobias Grossmann
Article

Abstract

Humans often behave more prosocially when being observed in person and even in response to subtle eye cues, purportedly to manage their reputation. Previous research on this phenomenon has employed the “watching eyes paradigm,” in which adults displayed greater prosocial behavior in the presence of images of eyes versus inanimate objects. However, the robustness of the effect of eyes on prosocial behavior has recently been called into question. Therefore, the first goal of the present study was to attempt to replicate this effect. Additionally, it remains unclear whether the watching-eyes effect is driven specifically by reputation management (owing to the monitoring function of the eyes) or whether any cues indexing human presence more generally also have a similar effect. To address these questions, the current study compared prosocial behavior in the presence of eyes versus inanimate objects as well as other human features. The study was conducted as a field experiment at a children’s museum. Each week, the donation signs were changed to show eyes, noses, mouths, or chairs. Total donation amount and number of patrons per week were recorded. Participants donated more when they were exposed to eyes than to inanimate objects (chairs). We thus replicated the previously reported watching-eyes effect. Moreover, more money was donated when individuals were exposed to eyes than to more general cues of human presence (nose and mouth). The current findings suggest that eyes play a special role in promoting cooperation in humans, likely by serving as cues of monitoring and thus eliciting reputation management behavior.

Keywords

Cooperation Prosocial behavior Reputation Watching-eyes effect 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are extremely grateful to the Virginia Discovery Museum in Charlottesville, VA, and in particular to Kaitlin Clear German for all her assistance with data collection. In addition, we would like to thank Janine Oostenbroek and Katie Krol for helpful discussions and comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

12110_2018_9327_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (207 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 207 kb)

References

  1. Andreoni, J., & Petrie, R. (2004). Public goods experiments without confidentiality: A glimpse into fund-raising. Journal of Public Economics, 88(7), 1605–1623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baillon, A., Selim, A., & Van Dolder, D. (2013). On the social nature of eyes: The effect of social cues in interaction and individual choice tasks. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(2), 146–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bateson, M., Nettle, D., & Roberts, G. (2006). Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting. Biology Letters, 2(3), 412–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bateson, M., Callow, L., Holmes, J. R., Roche, M. L. R., & Nettle, D. (2013). Do images of “watching eyes” induce behaviour that is more pro-social or more normative? A field experiment on littering. PLoS One, 8(12), e82055.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brodeur, M. B., Guérard, K., & Bouras, M. (2014). Bank of Standardized Stimuli (BOSS) phase II: 930 new normative photos. PLoS One, 9(9), e106953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bull, R., & Gibson-Robinson, E. (1981). The influences of eye-gaze, style of dress, and locality on the amounts of money donated to a charity. Human Relations, 34(10), 895–905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burnham, T. C., & Hare, B. (2007). Engineering human cooperation: Does involuntary neural activation increase public goods contributions? Human Nature, 18, 88–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carbon, C. C., & Hesslinger, V. M. (2011). Bateson et al.'s (2006) cues-of-being-watched paradigm revisited. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 70, 203–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ebner, N. C., Riediger, M., & Lindenberger, U. (2010). FACES—A database of facial expressions in young, middle-aged, and older women and men: Development and validation. Behavior Research Methods, 42(1), 351–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ekström, M. (2012). Do watching eyes affect charitable giving? Evidence from a field experiment. Experimental Economics, 15(3), 530–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Engelmann, J. M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2012). Five-year olds, but not chimpanzees, attempt to manage their reputations. PLoS One, 7(10), e48433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ernest-Jones, M., Nettle, D., & Bateson, M. (2011). Effects of eye images on everyday cooperative behavior: A field experiment. Evolution and Human Behavior, 32(3), 172–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Farroni, T., Csibra, G., Simion, F., & Johnson, M. H. (2002). Eye contact detection in humans from birth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99(14), 9602–9605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Farroni, T., Johnson, M. H., Menon, E., Zulian, L., Faraguna, D., & Csibra, G. (2005). Newborns' preference for face-relevant stimuli: Effects of contrast polarity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(47), 17245–17250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fathi, M., Bateson, M., & Nettle, D. (2014). Effects of watching eyes and norm cues on charitable giving in a surreptitious behavioral experiment. Evolutionary Psychology, 12(5), 878–887.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415(6868), 137–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fehr, E., & Schneider, F. (2010). Eyes are on us, but nobody cares: Are eye cues relevant for strong reciprocity? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 277(1686), 1315–1323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  19. Grossmann, T. (2017). The eyes as windows into other minds: An integrative perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 107–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haley, K. J., & Fessler, D. M. (2005). Nobody's watching? Subtle cues affect generosity in an anonymous economic game. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26(3), 245–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hare, B. (2017). Survival of the friendliest: Homo sapiens evolved via selection for prosociality. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 155–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Keller, J., & Pfattheicher, S. (2011). Vigilant self-regulation, cues of being watched and cooperativeness. European Journal of Personality, 25(5), 363–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kurzban, R. (2001). The social psychophysics of cooperation: Nonverbal communication in a public goods game. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 25(4), 241–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lamba, S., & Mace, R. (2010). People recognise when they are really anonymous in an economic game. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(4), 271–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leimgruber, K. L., Shaw, A., Santos, L. R., & Olson, K. R. (2012). Young children are more generous when others are aware of their actions. PLoS One, 7(10), e48292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Manesi, Z., & Pollet, T. V. (2017). No support for the watching eyes effect across three "lost letter" field experiments. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, 8(1), 12–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Manesi, Z., Van Lange, P. A., & Pollet, T. V. (2016). Eyes wide open: Only eyes that pay attention promote prosocial behavior. Evolutionary Psychology, 14(2), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Matsugasaki, K., Tsukamoto, W., & Ohtsubo, Y. (2015). Two failed replications of the watching eyes effect. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, 6(2), 17–20.Google Scholar
  30. Milinski, M., Semmann, D., & Krambeck, H. (2002). Reputation helps solve the “tragedy of the commons.” Nature, 415(6870), 424–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Northover, S. B., Pedersen, W. C., Cohen, A. B., & Andrews, P. W. (2017). Artificial surveillance cues do not increase generosity: Two meta-analyses. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(1), 144–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nosek, B. A., Alter, G., Banks, G. C., Borsboom, D., Bowman, S., Breckler, S., et al. (2015). Promoting an open research culture. Science, 348(6242), 1422–1425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Oda, R., Niwa, Y., Honma, A., & Hiraishi, K. (2011). An eye-like painting enhances the expectation of a good reputation. Evolution and Human Behavior, 32(3), 166–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Panagopoulos, C. (2014a). I've got my eyes on you: Implicit social pressure cues and prosocial behavior. Political Psychology, 35, 23–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Panagopoulos, C. (2014b). Watchful eyes: Implicit observability cues and voting. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35, 279–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Powell, K. L., Roberts, G., & Nettle, D. (2012). Eye images increase charitable donations: Evidence from an opportunistic field experiment in a supermarket. Ethology, 118(11), 1096–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Saunders, T. J., Taylor, A. H., & Atkinson, Q. D. (2016). No evidence that a range of artificial monitoring cues influence online donations to charity in an MTurk sample. Royal Society Open Science, 3, 150710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sparks, A., & Barclay, P. (2013). Eye images increase generosity, but not for long: The limited effect of a false cue. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(5), 317–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sparks, A., & Barclay, P. (2015). No effect on condemnation of short or long exposure to eye images. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, 6(2), 13–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. US Census Bureau. (2016). State and county QuickFacts: Charlottesville, Virginia. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/charlottesvillecityvirginiacounty/PST045216.
  43. Vaish, A., Kelsey, C. M., Tripathi, A., & Grossmann, T. (2017). Attentiveness to eyes predicts generosity in a reputation-relevant context. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(6), 729–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vogt, S., Efferson, C., Berger, J., & Fehr, E. (2015). Eye spots do not increase altruism in children. Evolution and Human Behavior, 36(3), 224–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wedekind, C., & Milinski, M. (2000). Cooperation through image scoring in humans. Science, 288(5467), 850–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations