How being watched changes you

While researching ideas I found this interesting BBC article about how being watched changes the way we behave and interact without us knowing. Humans have become sensitive to the presence of others and it influences how we behave when we know or think we’re being watched. When we feel like we’re being watched even if its just a drawing, a painting, or a pair of eyes, it influences the decisions we make trying to adjust our self presentation. The article gives an example of a psychology experiment which took place in the 1970s.

It was Halloween night, and children were out knocking on doors collecting candy. Psychologists positioned themselves inside 18 different homes, and prepared themselves for the stream of costumed children seeking sweets. After opening the door and chatting with the children for a minute or two, they’d tell them to take a single piece of candy from a bowl chockfull with treats, and no more. The researchers then left the children alone with the candy bowl and, half the time, with a mirror. A second hidden experimenter covertly recorded the kids’ behavior. The researchers reasoned that children might be less likely to take a sneaky handful of sweets if they could see their own reflection in the mirror.

And that’s just what they found. When faced with a reflection of their own faces, even masked by a Halloween costume, the kids were more likely to behave.

When the children felt like they were being watched, even by themselves via a mirror, they feel the pressure of their actions and appearance being scrutinised and are more likely to behave an an acceptable way, i.e not stealing extra sweets.

This could be an interesting idea to play with (as mentioned at the end of my panopticon post) by basing interactions about watching the audience, in an attempt to change their behaviour. This could be doing something that actually displays the camera feed so that it is blatantly obvious they’re being watched, or something more subtle that does the tracking in the background and watches them in a more abstract way, for example a pair of eyes on screen that follows people as they move.

UPDATE: With my face tracking route i’ve opted for the blatant watching of the audience as the video is being shown on screen. The interactors of the piece are likely to notice it and change their behaviour as they know they’re being watched. Their representation on screen is also altered which may cause them to feel even more conscious of their appearance and overall self presentation as their self image has been manipulated without their direct consent.

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