Messy kitchen getting you down? Try a subconscious approach to keeping an “eye” on your roommates or family members.
Jeremy Mercer | May/June 2012 Issue
The joys of communal living are often offset by the irritations of a shared kitchen: jam jars mysteriously scraped bare, dirty dishes amassed in the sink, detergent bottles unreplenished. Might there be an unconscious solution?
Melissa Bateson, a researcher at Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience, ran an experiment in a staff kitchen in which an honor system was used to pay for coffee, tea and milk. For 10 weeks, Bateson decorated the price list with pictures of either human eyes or flowers. Once fluctuations in consumption were accounted for, an average of almost three times as much money was collected during the weeks with pictures of eyes. Bateson believes cooperation is an innate behavior that helps us adapt to groups, but this instinct wanes when we’re alone. The eyes triggered an unconscious “community” function because they created the sensation of being among people. “The human perceptual system contains neurons that respond selectively to stimuli involving faces and eyes,” Bateson concluded. “The images exerted an automatic and unconscious effect.”
For more of Jeremy Mercer’s writing on hidden persuaders, click here.