How can you keep people honest? Psychologists have discovered one thing that works: a pair of staring eyes. And they don’t even have to belong to a real person!

Psychologists tested this by putting a poster showing a large pair of staring eyes above a box in their university’s kitchen, where people were supposed to drop coins whenever they poured a cup of coffee or tea. Even though it was only a poster, it still worked?payments went up.

In the Independent, Steve Connor quotes evolutionary behaviorist Melissa Bateson as saying, “I and a few colleagues were interested in seeing…if we could manipulate people to pay more money.”

As a control, Bateson alternated between the “eyes” poster and another poster showing a bunch of flowers. Contributions always went up when the eyes were posted. This suggests a simple and inexpensive way to deter shoplifters.

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