HR Strange But True!
June 29, 2006

Researchers have found a novel and inexpensive way to keep employees honest in the workplace.

Scientists from Newcastle University in England conducted an experiment in an office that used an honour system for employees to pay for coffee and other drinks in the break room.

During the experiment, the researchers hung two posters with the amount workers should pay into an "honesty box" when they take coffee and other drinks. One poster included an image of flowers and the other included an image of a person's eyes. The researchers switched the posters every week.

At the end of each week, the researchers counted how much money workers put into the box and tracked the volume of milk used as a way to tally total drink consumption.

The researchers found that workers paid on average 2.76 times as much when the poster with an image of eyes was used.

The researchers said the study showed that people behave differently when they believe they are being watched because they are worried what others will think of them .

"Our brains are programmed to respond to eyes and faces whether we are consciously aware of it or not," says Melissa Bateson, lead author of the study. "I was really surprised by how big the effect was as we were expecting it to be quite subtle but the statistics show that the eyes had a strong effect on our tea and coffee drinkers."

The study is published in the June 28 edition of the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Source: Newcastle University

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