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Abstract Details


2014 BPS Scottish Branch Undergraduate Conference

Conference Venue: Edinburgh Napier University
Scottish Branch

From: 22 Mar 2014
To: 22 Mar 2014

Eye spy with my little eye: the effect of priming ‘watchful eyes’ on risky decision-making

Louise Heron
University of Dundee

Previous research (Bateson, Nettle and Roberts, 2006; Nettle, Nott and Bateson, 2012) has indicated that the presence of human eye images have led to increased honesty and reduced bicycle theft. In extension, the primary aim of this study was to explore the effect of priming participants with watchful human eyes on risk perception and risky behaviour. The role of optimism, self-consciousness, and gender were additionally investigated.

A between-participants design was employed with three conditions; control (no images), supraliminally (consciously) primed eye images, and subliminally (unconsciously) primed eye images. There were two dependent variables: risk perception and risk taking behaviour. Optimism, self-consciousness and gender were included as independent variables and potentially as covariates.

30 participants were randomly assigned to an experimental condition. Participants completed the Revised Life Orientation Test (LOT-R) and Self-Consciousness scale. A computerised dual-task was used to prime participants. Subsequently, the Domain-specific Risk Taking Questionnaire (a self-report measure of risk perception) and the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (an active risk taking task) were completed in counterbalanced order. A distracter task, the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT), was also included.

Data will be analysed using a one-way between participants MANOVA and independent t-tests. Correlations will occur between risk measures, and optimism and self-consciousness. It is anticipated that those primed with watchful eyes, either subliminally or supraliminally, will be more cautious and risk averse than those in the no image control condition.

This study intended to add to the growing controversial literature of priming. Particularly, in exploring whether priming effects were strong enough to encourage participants to consider their actions more thoroughly by eliciting the feeling of being watched over in risky situations.

Project Supervisor:
Professor Trevor Harley


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