I have a hypothesis that if you prime people with self-image or social-image concerns, they will behave less anti-socially and more prosocially. For example, they litter less, they discriminate less against racial minorities, etc.

Are there any such studies examining this? If not, how can I prime people with self-image or social-image concerns?


Your hypothesis is true, priming can affect human behavior in many different ways. Specifically pro-social behavior can be encouraged by simply displaying an image of a pair of eyes.

We examined the effect of an image of a pair of eyes on contributions to an honesty box used to collect money for drinks in a university coffee room. People paid nearly three times as much for their drinks when eyes were displayed rather than a control image. This finding provides the first evidence from a naturalistic setting of the importance of cues of being watched, and hence reputational concerns, on human cooperative behaviour.

Also in a similar study the following results are found.

We also found that images of watching eyes reduced littering, although contrary to previous findings this was only when there were larger numbers of people around. With regard to our central aim, we found no evidence that litter on the ground interacted non-additively with images of eyes to induce increased littering behaviour. Our data therefore support the hypothesis that images of eyes induce more pro-social behaviour, independent of local norms. This finding has positive implications for the application of eye images in combating anti-social behaviour.

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    $\begingroup$ I saw the first study being demonstrated on a TV documentary a while ago and found that interesting. I wish I could remember what the documentary was called $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Feb 13 '18 at 14:06

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