Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner are back putting the freak in economics. As they did in Freakonomics, SUPERfreakonomics uses economic analysis to give some insights into actual human behavior.
When the original Freakonomics came out it was very original. Since then other books have hit the mainstream trying to do the same thing, most notably Malcolm Gladwell. SuperFreakonomics is good but comes across as much less original than the original. There are many other reviews of the book by people more competent at book reviews than me. The authors’ take on global warming has stirred up lots of controversy.
SuperFreakonomics has plenty of stories that compliance professionals should find interesting. It’s certainly worth your time to read the book.
One item in the book that caught my interest was some research by Melissa Bateson in her department’s break room. Faculty members paid for coffee and beverages by dropping money into an “honesty can.” Each week professor Bateson posted a new price list. She didn’t change the prices, but she did post a different photograph on the list each week. She alternated between using a picture of flowers and using a picture of human eyes.
When the eyes were watching, nearly three times as much money ended up in the honesty can. Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting (.pdf) by Melissa Bateson, Daniel Nettle and Gilbert Roberts, published in Biology Letters 2006.
“We believe that images of eyes motivate cooperative behaviour because they induce a perception in participants of being watched. Although participants were not actually observed in either of our experimental conditions, the human perceptual system contains neurons that respond selectively to stimuli involving faces and eyes, and it is therefore possible that the images exerted an automatic and unconscious effect on the participants’ perception that they were being watched.”
Maybe I will scrap using my corporate signature in email and use that last set of eyes.
What are your thoughts?