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Eye-image in Experiments: Social Cue or Experimenter Demand Effect?

Subhasish Chowdhury, Joo Young Jeon and Bibhas Saha

No 67, University of East Anglia Applied and Financial Economics Working Paper Series from School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Abstract: It is observed in neuroscience, economics and psychology experiments that the presence of an image of a pair of eyes may result in higher level of altruistic behavior by subjects. It is hence concluded that the eye-image serves as a `social Êcue'. We test this against an alternative hypothesis that the higher level of altruism may occur since the eye-image triggers an experimenter demand effect in the same direction with the perceived altruism. We run a `Taking game' with and without eye-image in which the recipient owns some money, and the dictator can take any amount from that. In such a case the social cue and the experimenter demand effect go in opposite directions. We find no overall difference in the amount taken in those treatments. However, males take significantly less and females take insignificantly more under the treatment with eye-image. We conclude that the presence of eyes may have both the social cue and the experimental demand effects, and the net effect depends on the relative magnitude and the direction of the two. For males, the social cue effect is more prominent.

Date: 2014-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp and nep-soc
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