Tech Talk, Developer Tips & Press Releases from 49 Research

Psychology and the Eyes

June 12, 2011

Creating software is never strictly an engineering effort. Generally, multiple skill sets go into creating any piece of technology. Sure there are people with computer science & mathematics skills and people with artistic skills, but did you know that psychology plays an important role in the creation of many applications?! Often this comes in the form of a field known as human-computer interaction (HCI) that is used to make systems more usable, but in general each piece of software is different and how each of them can benefit from this psychology can be different.

Human eyes tend to have an effect on the psychology of others. We know that it's the eyes that tend to make a doll, robot or computer generated character seem alive. [1][2] But the eyes have more "power" than that.

Psychology researchers have found that even photos of eyes can exert social pressure.

In one experiment, researchers alternated hanging posters of staring human faces and posters of flowers on the walls of a cafe. The researchers then counted the number of people who cleaned their plates and rubbish away after finishing their meal in both situations. During periods when the posters of faces were on the walls, watching over the diners, twice as many people cleaned up, compared to the periods when the pictures of flowers were overlooking the diners, when more litter was left for cafe workers to clear away.

In another study the same researchers, looked at the impact of images of eyes on contributions to an honesty box in a tea room. They found that people put nearly three times more money in the box when there were eyes compared with flowers.

Of course, although there are modal reactions to social pressure, (statistically speaking) it is not absolute. Knowing your application's audience or user base is important. But nonetheless a finding such as this one has applications to online advertising, converting users for software with freemium business models, gaming, and more.

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