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Eye images increase generosity, but not for long: the limited effect of a false cue Adam Sparks, Pat Barclay. Shefali Garg(11678) Smith Gupta(11720). Background. Cooperation increases as anonymity decreases.

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Eye images increase generosity, but not for long: the limited effect of a false cueAdam Sparks, Pat Barclay

Shefali Garg(11678)

Smith Gupta(11720)

  • Cooperation increases as anonymity decreases.
  • Humans have neural circuitry that automatically activates in response to both real and pictured faces.
  • Human decision-making influenced not only by conscious, reasoned evaluation of explicit knowledge, but also by non-conscious, intuitive judgments based on implicit cues.

How long does it last?

Does it always work?

  • Helps resolve discrepancies about whether and when eye images influence cooperation
  • People habituate to an uninformative reputation cue
  • Informs efforts to use reputational cues to promote cooperation in real world or research settings
  • The eyes effect is an involuntary, subconscious response.
  • Significant effect of exposure length on giving.
  • More effective if few real observers will be present.
  • No observed effect on autistic people.
  • Effect on giving to in-group, not out-group.
  • Barclay, P. (2011b). The evolution of charitable behaviour and the power of reputation. In C. Roberts (Ed.), Applied evolutionary psychology (pp. 149–172). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Andreoni, J., & Petrie, R. (2004). Public goods experiments without confidentiality: A glimpse into fund-raising. Journal of Public Economics, 88, 1605–1623.
  • Haley, K. J., & Fessler, D. M. T. (2005). Nobody’s watching? Subtle cues affect generosity in an anonymous economic game. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 26, 245–256,
  • Blest, A. D. (1957). The function of eyespot patterns in the Lepidoptera. Behaviour, 11, 209–256.
  • Sparks, A. Subtle cues and economic games. MSc [thesis]. Hamilton (ON): McMaster University; 2010.
  • Bateson, M., Nettle, D., & Roberts, G. (2006). Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting. Biology Letters, 2, 412–414, 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0509.
  • Barclay, P., & Willer, R. (2007). Partner choice creates competitive altruism in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274, 749–753,
  • DeBruine, L. M. (2002). Facial resemblance enhances trust. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 269, 1307–1312, 2002.2034.
  • Mifune, N., Hashimoto, H., & Yamagishi, T. (2010). Altruism toward in-group members as a reputation mechanism. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 109–117,
  • 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, 166–171,