Eyes on the screen: exploring the watching-eyes effect on altruistic behaviour in online and field environments

PhD Thesis


Keli Jenner 2022. Eyes on the screen: exploring the watching-eyes effect on altruistic behaviour in online and field environments. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Psychology and Life Sciences
AuthorsKeli Jenner
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy
Abstract

The overall aim of this thesis was to explore the watching-eyes effect on altruistic behaviour. Study one tested whether the presence of eye cues impacted prosocial behaviour in an online environment. Study two built on this by collecting eye-tracking data to determine whether the participants paid attention to the image of eyes whilst completing prosocial tasks. Study three further expanded the range of eye stimuli used in three areas: Gender, Emotion and Salience. No conclusive evidence was found in these studies that the presence of watching-eye images affected online prosocial behaviour, but there was some evidence that the presence of eyes may deter people from anti-social behaviour. The eye-tracking data from study two revealed that increased attentiveness to eyes did not result in an increased prosocial behaviour. However, there were issues with low statistical power identified in each study which limits the ability to make any definitive conclusions about the watching-eyes effect in an online context. In study four A, the first known watching-eyes online field experiment was conducted to test whether the presence of eyes on a ‘real-world’ website increased charitable donations. However, despite over 33,000 web clicks, not a single donation was received. The final study provided a critical reflection on a reportedly successful watching-eyes field experiment by Keep Britain Tidy (2014). Although the social experiment was highly effective in reducing anti-social behaviour, it was not possible to ascertain that it was due to the presence of eye images. Although the watching-eyes effect may not be the panacea for impacting human behaviour that perhaps early studies suggested, the indicative findings from this thesis and the results from more recent watching eyes studies suggests that in the right context, watching eyes could provide a simple and cost-effective way of having a small (but meaningful) impact on behaviour change.

KeywordsAltruistic behaviour.; Watching-eyes effect; Online and field environments
Year2022
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Deposited22 Aug 2022
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/9212x/eyes-on-the-screen-exploring-the-watching-eyes-effect-on-altruistic-behaviour-in-online-and-field-environments

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