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Posters of Angry Eyes Actually Scare Off Bike Thieves - John Metcalfe - The Atlantic Cities

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Who said Big Brother's always a bad thing?

In England, researchers studying the psychology of surveillance recently discovered that putting posters of glaring eyes above bike racks seemed to ward off thieves. It was no small effect, either: In the three racks they monitored, the number of stolen cycles went down by an incredible 62 percent. There is a big caveat to their findings, though, which we'll get to in a minute.

Daniel Nettle, lead author of the new study in PLOS ONE, "Cycle Thieves, We Are Watching You," has been investigating the curiously potent effect of eyes for a while. In 2010, he found that posters of eyes reduced littering inside a university cafeteria. More recently, he helped uncover a link between eye images and charity. Confronted with a pair of peepers staring in their general direction, people dumped nearly twice as many donations into a supermarket alms box than with control images.