Visual Translation

Feeling Watched? Discover How Images Influence Behaviour

Researchers have found that a photograph showing eyes can influence people to behave cooperatively (1). We are more likely to comply with instructions and expected behaviours when we think we are being watched; we do not need to be observed per se, we just need to have the perception that we are. Photographs of eyes can trigger that perception.

As humans, we have a tendency to be cooperative and run the risk of exclusion when we are not. Our fear of exclusion and our cooperative nature can turn a prescribed behaviour into an expected behaviour or norm. This is one way to describe the process by which actions become ‘normal’.

Stop for a moment. Think about the staring eyes in magazines, posters, and other media. What expected behaviour do you feel prompted to cooperate with?


Text by Mithzay Pomenta
Image by Dundanim/Shutterstock
1. Ernest-Jones, Max, Daniel Nettle, Melissa Bateson (2011). Effects of eye images on everyday cooperative behavior: a field experiment. Evolution and Human Behavior 32 (172–178).