An eye-like painting enhances the expectation of a good reputation

Ryo Oda, Yuki Niwa, Atsushi Honma, Kai Hiraishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


The presence of subtle cues of being watched has been reported to make people behave altruistically, even when they are anonymous. Individual selection theory predicts that generosity in the presence of eyes is based on the providers' expectation of a future reward. On the other hand, as we are living in quite a large society in which altruistic punishment is effective, the eyes could elicit fear of punishment. However, no previous study has investigated whether people are concerned with their reputation when subtle social cues are present. We conducted the dictator game in the presence of, or without, a painting of stylized eyes. The participants were then asked to complete a post-experimental questionnaire designed to investigate what they were thinking when they decided the amount of money to offer the recipient and how they perceived the experimental situation. Participants in the eye condition allocated more money to the recipient than did those in the control condition. This effect was not mediated by fear of punishment but by the expectation of a reward. Moreover, the results suggested that the participants expected their actions would enhance their reputation in the eyes of a third party.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-171
Number of pages6
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 May 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Altruism
  • Dictator game
  • Generosity
  • Reciprocity
  • Reputation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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