Joe Leech

Honesty online, it’s all in the eyes

How to encourage honesty online.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne found that someone in the university coffee room wasn’t paying their fair share. People left the required amount of cash in the honesty payment box and took some milk for their tea or coffee.

The researchers decided to set up an experiment to see if they could encourage honesty.

They tested two types of images placed next to the honest box. Images of flowers and images of human eyes, either looking at the subject or looking away.

A graph showing that when eyes are shown people donate more money, the control group is flowers.

The money in the honesty box went up when images of human eyes looking directly out were used.

If we think people are aware of our actions we are more likely to be honest. Knowing that others know we haven’t paid encourages us to pay.

Read the study here

Using this theory

I’ve used this behaviour to encourage honesty in completing online forms in the insurance industry.

Placing the picture of a person looking directly at the user on the form increased the number of users answering yes to the question ‘Have you made a insurance claim in the last 3 years?’ where before they were answering no or not being completely honest.

If you want to learn more about finding, reading and applying academic psychology research to design, grab a copy of my book or sign up to my Psychology for Designers workshop mailing list.

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