How gaze affects our behavior

Le Perreux-sur-Marne (The False Mirror) by René Magritte (1928)

Le Perreux-sur-Marne (The False Mirror) by René Magritte (1928)

Researchers are looking at how someone’s gaze affects our behavior.

For example, researchers in England placed posters with staring eyes near bicycle racks and found fewer bikes were stolen.

My colleagues figure we respond viscerally to a pair of watchful eyes and our behavior becomes more socially acceptable.

They use terms like self-disclosure and disinhibition to refer to the effects of the human gaze—or lack of it.

Nasty comments posted online, scientists figure, are due partly to a disinhibiting effect when writers can hide their identities.

Even President Barack Obama can’t avoid the bullies.

When he inaugurated his twitter account this week, he received hundreds of insults and even death threats.

But what happens when you feel you are being watched online?

Researchers wonder if planting a pair of eyes on a website could affect disclosure.

My colleagues have found in preliminary studies that staring eyes may encourage writers to be more truthful—and to disclose more information about themselves.

But there’s a hitch.

While gaze could affect bullying behavior, staring eyes could also nudge you to share personal information.

A set of watchful eyes could help pry information you may not want to disclose.

Here’s a scenario: you join a network group—like Facebook—and get asked questions like your name, your address, your phone number, your birthday, your hometown, and more—all of which can be seen by other users.

Sound familiar?

Turns out this information sets you up for theft.

The human gaze that discourages someone from nicking your bike may also encourage you to be more open and honest.

Just take care to shield your private life.

Photo credit:



About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, biking, communication, framing, heuristics, native american, native press, Native Science, science communication and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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