Thursday, September 07, 2006

'Big Brother' eyes encourage honesty, study shows

Dr. Melissa Bateson27-Jun-2006

UK scientists have found a way of making people behave more honestly in an experiment that could aid strategies for tackling anti-social behaviour.
A team from Newcastle University found people put nearly three times as much money into an 'honesty box' when they were being watched by a pair of eyes on a poster, compared with a poster that featured an image of flowers.
The researchers say the eye pictures were probably influential because the brain naturally reacts to images of faces and eyes. It seems people were subconsciously cooperating with the honesty box when it featured pictures of eyes rather than flowers.
They also say the findings show how people behave differently when they believe they are being watched because they are worried what others will think of them. Being seen to co-operate is a good long-term strategy for individuals because it is likely to mean others will return the gesture when needed.
Details of the experiment, believed to be the first to test how cues of being watched affect people's tendency for social co-operation in a real-life setting, are published today, Wednesday June 28, in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
An honesty box is a system of payment which relies on people's honesty to pay a specified price for goods or services - there is no cashier to check whether they are doing so.
For this experiment, lead researcher Dr Melissa Bateson and her colleagues Drs Daniel Nettle and Gilbert Roberts, of the Evolution and Behaviour Research Group in the School of Biology and Psychology at Newcastle University, made use of a long-running 'honesty box' arrangement.
This had been operating as a way of paying for hot drinks in a common room used by around 48 staff for many years, so users had no reason to suspect an experiment was taking place.
An A5 poster was placed above the honesty box, listing prices of tea, coffee and milk. The poster also featured an image banner across the top, and this alternated each week between different pictures of flowers and 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 observer.
Each week the research team recorded the total amount of money collected and the volume of milk consumed as this was considered to be the best index available of total drink consumption.
The team then calculated the ratio of money collected to the volume of milk consumed in each week. On average, people paid 2.76 as much for their drinks on the weeks when the poster featured pictures of eyes.
Lead author of the study, Melissa Bateson, a Royal Society research fellow based at Newcastle University, said: "Our brains are programmed to respond to eyes and faces whether we are consciously aware of it or not.
"I was really surprised by how big the effect was as we were expecting it to be quite subtle but the statistics show that the eyes had a strong effect on our tea and coffee drinkers."
The findings could have applications in initiatives to curb anti-social behaviour or in law enforcement - perhaps in areas such as payment for public transport, road safety or the general issue of behaviour in public places.
The group now hopes to expand the study to involve a larger sample population.
Dr Bateson said: "Our findings suggest that people are less likely to be selfish if they feel they are being watched, which has huge implications for real life.
"For example, this could be applied to warnings about speed cameras. A sign bearing an image of a camera would have to be actively processed by our brains, as it is an artificial stimulus. Our research and previous studies suggest drivers would react much more quickly and positively to natural stimuli such as eyes and faces."


Interviews (all interviewees are based at Newcastle University): Dr Melissa Bateson: + 44 (0) 191 222 5056; Dr Daniel Nettle: +44(0) 191 222 8993; Dr Gilbert Roberts: +44 (0) 191 222 8704;
IMAGES: Examples of the two versions of the posters are available via email from Newcastle University press office (Word documents).
SOURCE INFORMATION: Bateson, M., Nettle, D. & Roberts, G. 'Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting' Biology Letters 2006 (doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0509). Copies available via email from Newcastle University Press Office.
INFORMATION FOR BROADCASTERS: A radio ISDN line at Newcastle University campus is usually available for use free of charge from 0900-1700 British Summer Time. Please contact Claire Jordan, Press Office, to arrange access and obtain the ISDN number.
END OF PRESS RELEASE: Issued by Newcastle University Press Office. Further information from Claire Jordan, tel. + 44 (0) 191 222 6067/7850 or or email Website:

Blair Tackling "Menace" Children

...You are a menace to children, Mr. Blair.

Operation Momentum, Social Engineering, and Dusty Attics

I am cursing at the moment because I have lost an article, which I found in the 'Birmingham Mail', which talked about a West Midlands Police campaign called 'Operation Momentum'. Part of the operation was to introduce Orwellian posters on Buses throughout the city of Birmingham to give people the impression that they are constantly under surveillance. The posters featured a close-up shot of two large eyes. In the article it said something on the lines of, 'psychological studies show that images of eyes in public make people more aware of surveillance.' When I read this I literally fell off my chair. Not only do they admit that there are social engineering studies taking place, but also they downplay the entire thing as if it's good for us. - Basic conditioning through the use of "fear". It also goes to show how much of George Orwell's 1984 is becoming a template for modern day society. Sadly though, most people have been conditioned to think that Winston Smith is an enemy (that's if they've even heard of the book) because "Big Brother" is our friend, he helps keep us safe from the evil al-CIA-duh terrorists and provide us with all the latest gossip and entertainment we need.

I also read another article which talked about how the city of Birmingham could be targeted by terrorists -- you know, those invisible, invincible, supernatural shadow people that like to hide in your cupboard, under your bed or in your dusty attic. I can't help but have visions of these supposed terrorists living in a James Bond-like secret mountain base in Afghanistan, complete with it's own monorail system. If you sincerely believe that the Government isn't behind all of this fear mongering and terrorist make-believe, then you need to start facing reality. The US spends billions and billions of dollars on surveillance/espionage technology, yet despite all of this, the main target for this technology isn't the man-at-large, Bin Laden and all of his cave-conspirators, it’s the American people. And now Bush tries to justify the use of NSA domestic spying by basically saying that it helps fight al-CIA-duh. Well if that's the case, why did you block those FBI agents from investigating the Bin Laden trail when you signed Presidential Directive W199I, Mr. Bush? Why were members of the Bin Laden family meeting in America prior to September 11th and then flown back when all aircraft had been banned from flight on that day?

Stay tuned.