Would it help if "Big Brother" was watching?

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  • bracken
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  • Working throughout Africa since 1996 in development cooperation. Involved with sustainable sanitation systems since 2002. Currently working for the AHT GROUP AG (a private consultancy office in Germany).
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Would it help if "Big Brother" was watching?

Dear all,
I was recently reading a psychology paper "Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting" (see attached) which basically presented the results of a study which set out to examine 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.

This may all sound quite distant to the topic of sanitation but when the study found that "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." It got me thinking that this could prove a powerful tool on encouraging handwashing.

At the time I was on a project visit and quickly came up with a small poster that I put on the walls of both the male and female toilets in the project office. As the mission was in Southern Africa I used the eyes of a well know and respected authority figure from the region (working on the notion that people would at least sub.consciously recognise them) and used a phrase ("are your hands clean?") that deleberately has a double meaning, as there have been studies indicating a link between feelings of guilt and hygiene behaviour.

I had no time at all to carry out any kind of testing on the effectiveness of the poster, although anecdotal evidence from staff members did indicate that it did cause some type of reaction. If anybody has any similar experience or woud be interested in maybe trying something along these lines, or even simply testing this poster out in a real life situation (public toilet perhaps) I'd love to hear about it.

all the best,
Patrick
Water and Sanitation Specialist
AHT GROUP AG
Management & Engineering
D-45128 Essen, Huyssenallee 66-68
Germany

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  • arno
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  • Senior Research Fellow Stockholm Environment Institute
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Re: Would it help if "Big Brother" was watching?

Patrick
Here's an application using the same idea. bigthink.com/ideafeed/big-brother-is-wat...-you-wash-your-hands A bracelet using RFID (Radio Frequency ID) that tells the user his/her hands are properly washed. Originally designed for health workers. This is big stuff since dirty hands are a major cause of disease in hospitals.

Wonder if the eyes method can improve toilet cleaning as well?

Regards
--Arno/SEI
Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.sei.org
www.ecosanres.org
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