People, animals behave better when watched — study

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 08:08am (Mla time) 07/27/2007

WASHINGTON — When people and animals know they are being watched, they behave in more positive ways toward others, according to a study published Thursday by the US magazine Science

 

“When reputation is at stake, animals as well as humans switch from selfish to altruistic behavior, because only the latter is socially rewarded,” said the report.

 

“Recent investigations into human behavior have shown that subtle cues of being watched such as two stylized eye-like shapes on a computer screen background suffices to change behavior.”

 

Similarly, a picture of eyes “attached to a cafeteria collection box significantly raises the donated amount compared to a flower symbol.”

 

Manfred Milinski from the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany and Bettina Rockenbach of the University of Erfurt found that the human brain is “programmed” this way.

 

Researchers found that animals, including certain birds and fish, also change their behavior if they know they are being watched.

 

“For example, the cleaning wrasse fish grooms its client fish in the friendliest way when other clients watch, but without an audience it prefers to bite off pieces of its client’s skin,” the report said.

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