The watching eyes effect on charitable donation is boosted by fewer people in the vicinity

  • Ryo Oda Nagoya Institute of Technology
  • Ryota Ichihashi
Keywords: prosociality, watching eyes effect, charitable giving donation, collection box


Previous field experiments have found that artificial surveillance cues facilitated prosocial behaviors such as charitable donations and littering. Several previous field studies found that the artificial surveillance cue effect was stronger when few individuals were in the vicinity; however, others reported that the effect was stronger in large groups of people. Here, we report the results of a field study examining the effect of an artificial surveillance cue (stylized eyes) on charitable giving. Three collection boxes were placed in different locations around an izakaya (a Japanese-style tavern) for 84 days. The amount donated was counted each experimental day, and the izakaya staff provided the number of patrons who visited each day. We found that the effect of the stylized eyes was more salient when fewer patrons were in the izakaya. Our findings suggest that the effect of the artificial surveillance cue is similar to that of “real” cues and that the effect on charitable giving may weaken when people habituate to being watched by “real” eyes. 
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