Eyes in the Exam Room

Scientific American published an article earlier this month that revealed the results of a study corroborating the idea that “we tend to be on our best behavior when we know that we are being observed.” The researchers actually demonstrated that posters of staring human eyes were enough to change people’s behavior.

 …During periods when the posters of eyes, instead of flowers, overlooked the diners, twice as many people cleaned up after themselves.

The article goes on to hypothesize how or why this effect occurs, citing evolutionary reasons (“detecting lurking enemies”). It is then suggested that images of staring eyes could prevent theft and other bad behavior.

Looking around my exam rooms, bare but for the essentials, I think there might be some use for some “art” in the form of staring eyes. Would patients be more honest or forthcoming about their recreational activities? Would my diabetic patient be more inclined to admit that he has been eating ice cream and cake every night for the past few nights?

Or… it might even keep me in check. Not that I’m dishonest. But it might help me stay consistent with my values surrounding practicing medicine when days get harried or stressful. Hey, I may be a doctor, but I’m human, too. A little subtle evolutionarily-based trick can’t hurt.


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*picture:freedigitalphotos.net Salvatore Vuono


2 thoughts on “Eyes in the Exam Room

  1. Interesting, but don’t mistake “best behavior” for honesty. Desire for being on best behavior may lead to patient telling you what they think you *want* to hear. Best behavior would appear to be situation specific. Certain behaviors are expected in certain situations. That said, the eye trick might work if glued on patient fridge! By extension, eyes in exam room may serve best to keep the doctor honest.

  2. Seriously? Sounds like some of the stuff Deepak Chopra would say. 😉 Gotta get some eye-posters in my room, then. Maybe that’ll stop me slacking off so much. 😀

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