Kawamura & Kusumi (2017)

Kawamura, Y. (河村悠太), & Kusumi, T. (楠見孝) (2017).
The norm-dependent effect of watching eyes on donation.
Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(5), 659-666.
doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.05.003
Although many previous studies have shown that eye-like images promote generosity, the mechanism of this “watching eyes effect” remains unclear. One possible cause is the concern for a good reputation as a generous person, while the other is the concerns for a bad reputation as a norm violator. To elucidate which of these two concerns is the main influencer, the present study conducted a laboratory experiment that investigated whether the watching eyes effect changed depending on social norms. If the concern for a good reputation leads to the effect, prosocial behavior would be more likely in the presence of watching eyes, regardless of the social norms involved. However, if the concern for avoiding a bad reputation as a norm violator leads to the effect, watching eyes promote prosocial behavior only in the existence of prosocial norms. In the original study, participants were asked to make a charitable donation under conditions in which eye-like images either were or were not present. In addition to the eye-like images, we manipulated prosocial norms by informing each participant of either high or low mean donation amounts given by previous participants. We found that watching eyes promoted donations only when a prosocial norm existed. This supports the idea that the watching eyes effect is caused by a concern for avoiding a bad reputation from violating norms. However, in a replication study, we were unable to replicate the original results; watching eyes did not promote generosity regardless of the norm. Taken together, we discussed the moderation effect of norms and the possibility of other moderators.