Wired Science Blogs recently released a post by Mark Brown from Wired U.K. that talks about a study done by Newcastle University on what encourages people to make an action or not make an action. The experiment goes:
They “hung two different posters at a restaurant, to see how customers would react. They both featured text asking patrons to bin their rubbish, but one had a picture of flowers on it and the other had a pair of staring eyes.
The number of people who paid attention to the sign, and cleaned up after their meal, doubled when confronted with a pair of gazing peepers.”
As stated in the post, the study is based on the idea that people behave better if the option is mentioned or “highlighted” rather than forced on them. This is a type of “nudge psychology” which suggests that the eyes in the pictures are what push peoples’ need to do what the sign asked of them.
Photo by drawmanga.co.uk
The study was also done in a tea room that asked for donations for the tea. Subjects in the experiment that were faced with the staring eyes picture paid three times as much for the tea than those who were in a room that did not have the eyes drawing.
In London, officials are using this experiment to see whether or not the city should use large eyes on the city’s CCTV cameras. CCTV is a camera network that is meant to monitor the streets and prevent crime. So far, it has proven to be of little effect.
Because the success of these experiments is so striking, and the efforts to paint or post eyes on something a relatively easy thing to do, how could this be replicated in areas where there is high drug use? Should there be a pair of eyes painted underneath high school bleachers? What about in ally ways or in public bathrooms?
Other, seemingly simple solutions to issues with people loitering, committing crime or doing drugs in public places have worked very well. For example, playing classical music to discourage loitering. The simple solution of painting eyes on the side of the wall might yield great results.
Front picture done by Emily R. Feingold