Two Failed Replications of the Watching Eyes Effect

  • Keisuke Matsugasaki Kobe University
  • Wakana Tsukamoto Kobe University
  • Yohsuke Ohtsubo Kobe University
Keywords: watching eyes effect, dictator game, replication


The watching eyes effect refers to the phenomenon that people behave more altruistically than usual when an eye-image is present in their environment. In this paper, we report two failed replications of the watching eyes effect. In both Studies 1 and 2, participants decided how many coins out of a seven coin endowment (each coin worth 100 Japanese yen) to allocate to a subsequent participant, under the assumption that the prior participant may have left them some coins. In Study 1, participants anonymously made their allocation decision while seated in front of a poster depicting either an eye-image or a geometric pattern. In Study 2, to increase the saliency of the watching eyes, participants were instructed to place the coins in envelopes (one for self and one for the subsequent participant) printed with either an eye-image or a geometric pattern. In both Studies 1 and 2, the number of coins that participants allocated to subsequent participants did not significantly differ between the eye-image and control conditions. Moreover, the proportion of participants who allocated at least one coin to subsequent participants was not significantly different across the two conditions. In our studies, altruism was not increased by watching eyes.
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