Eyes in the skies: Exploring the effects of social presence cues on undesired and pro-social behaviour

Anja Martine Jansen

    Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

    6 Citations (Scopus)
    270 Downloads (Pure)


    Why do people litter, or cheat? Why would anyone violate social or moral rules? These questions inspire research in many scientific fields. Generally, we strive to understand this type of behavior in order to prevent it from happening.
    My research focused on situational crime prevention: interventions designed to prevent the occurrence of undesired behavior. Using interventions in an experimental setting, I wanted to gain insight in how elements in the physical environment influence the occurrence of undesired behaviour in both outdoor and indoor settings.
    Across five experiments I explored the effect of environmental factors like disorder and cues of being watched (such as surveillance cameras, mirrors, or images of eyes) on undesirable behaviour such as littering and cheating. Cues of being watched are generally assumed to discourage undesirable behaviour, while disorder is assumed to stimulate undesirable behaviour. With my research I wanted to integrate and test theories from the domains of psychology, sociology and criminology.
    To gain further insight into the psychological mechanisms underlying undesired behaviour, I examined whether personality factors could influence the effect of environmental factors on behaviour. The personality traits I focused on relate to people’s sensitivity to (social) cues in the environment. I investigated whether differences in these traits also surface in the way people react to subtle cues embedded in the environment. In controlled lab experiments I could measure personality traits using questionnaires, and assess the influence of personality traits on actual behaviour in an experimental setting.
    For the final part of my research, I switched from the lab to the real world to test whether the effects of environmental manipulations as tested in a lab environment would also uphold in everyday outdoor settings. I did this by introducing elements to the environment which were designed to trigger the impression of being watched: surveillance cameras, mirrors, and images of eyes, and presented these in a novel manner.
    My thesis aims to contribute to a better understanding of the factors provoking and suppressing undesired behaviour, which could help devise effective strategies and policies to reduce the monetary and social costs of these kinds of transgressions.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Twente
    • Giebels, Ellen, Supervisor
    • Junger, Marianne, Supervisor
    • van Rompay, Thomas J.L., Co-Supervisor
    Award date29 Jan 2021
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    Print ISBNs978-94-6419-114-1
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2021


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