Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"Altruism, eye cues, and social value orientation: Under what conditions does a sense of being watched increase charitable behaviors?"

VU University Amsterdam - Social & Organizational Psychology

PhD Student
Zoi Manesi

Prof. dr. Paul A.M. van Lange (VU University Amsterdam)
Dr. Thomas V. Pollet (VU University Amsterdam)

1 September 2013 - 1 June 2016

John Templeton Foundation


One intriguing finding from recent research is that minimal cues of being watched, like an image of watching eyes, can enhance cooperation and prosocial behavior. However, evidence for the effectiveness of interventions using eye cues to modify human behavior is still under empirical debate. This project aims to clarify the circumstances under which eye cues can increase prosociality by examining the moderating role of (a) the individual's social value orientation, and (b) attributes of eye cues (i.e. gender and emotional state conveyed by eyes). In a series of laboratory and field experiments, we aim to investigate the interplay between individual differences in social value orientation and attributes of eye cues in predicting three forms of human prosocial behavior: charitable giving, volunteering and blood donation. In collaboration with charities, volunteer and health organizations, we will explore the impact of interventions based on eye cues on university students, university personnel and general population. The core outcome is the development of an ecologically valid method for promoting prosociality that incorporates the most powerful types of eye cues and targets individuals susceptible to the watching eyes effect.

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