Monitoring Increases Pro-social Behaviours

Posted on October 20, 2018

What motivates people to donate? Psychologists have proposed several factors that increase the likelihood of donation as well as the amount donated. Some of these factors include situational demands, such as crisis relief after a natural disaster, or more individual factors, namely personality variables that account for the variance in whether people donate and how much they donate. A new study has found evidence that another factor could possibly lie in the (subconscious) perception of being watched.

Psychologists suggest that apart from altruism as a motivating factor, people tend to also act pro-socially when they feel that they are being monitored. This effect is hypothesized to be derived from impression management concerns, where people want to enhance their reputation as contributing members of society. Hence, when they are shown or primed with certain cues that remind them that others may be monitoring their actions, they tend to display more cooperative and pro-social acts.

In an experimental study, Kelsey et al. (2018) set up a donation box in a children’s museum and designed four separate conditions, only differing on the picture cues placed near the box – (1) pictures of noses, (2) pictures of eyes, (3) pictures of ears, and (4) pictures of chairs.
The results of the study showed that people tended to donate more in the eye condition compared to when other cues were displayed. The difference in donation garnered in the eye condition was 80% more than the weekly average – 12 dollars more per week in the eye condition compared to a weekly average of 15 dollars.

According to Kelsey, the findings support the idea that the presence of eyes does not increase pro-social behavior by cueing social presence, but rather through the perceived monitoring by the pictures of the eyes. This supports previous studies showing that images of eyes increased cooperative behaviours in participants, whilst other signs cueing social presence such as images of noses and ears in this case, did not result in the same effect.


Source material from Medical Xpress

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