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Watching Eyes and Living up to Expectations: Unkind, Not Kind, Eyes Increase First Mover Cooperation in a Sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma

Department of Management, Faculty of Applied Economics, University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13, Antwerpen 2000, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Roman Sheremeta and Eric Schniter
Games 2017, 8(2), 20;
Received: 14 January 2017 / Revised: 20 March 2017 / Accepted: 7 April 2017 / Published: 11 April 2017
PDF [607 KB, uploaded 12 April 2017]


(1) Background: Why and when images of watching eyes encourage prosocial behavior is still subject to discussion, and two recent meta-analyses show no effect of watching eyes on generosity. This study aims to discern the effect of watching eyes of different valence on two separate aspects of prosocial behavior, and additionally investigates whether individuals’ social value orientation moderates the effect of eyes. (2) Methods: Individuals take on the role of either a first or second mover in an incentivized, anonymous sequential prisoner’s dilemma (n = 247), a two-person game which separates the need to form expectations about the other player (first mover cooperation, trust) from the motive of greed (second mover cooperation, reciprocity). During decision-making, a picture of either kind eyes, unkind eyes, or a control picture is presented above each decision matrix. (3) Results: The results indicate that unkind eyes, and not kind eyes, significantly boost first mover cooperation. In contrast, neither type of eye cues increase second mover cooperation. Social value orientation does not moderate these effects. (4) Conclusions: Thus, the data suggest that the valence of eye cues matters, and we propose that unkind eyes urge first movers to live up to the interaction partner’s expectations. View Full-Text
Keywords: watching eyes; valence; sequential prisoner’s dilemma; expectations watching eyes; valence; sequential prisoner’s dilemma; expectations

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Pauwels, L.; Declerck, C.H.; Boone, C. Watching Eyes and Living up to Expectations: Unkind, Not Kind, Eyes Increase First Mover Cooperation in a Sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma. Games 2017, 8, 20.

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