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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/29/19

The Great Unwatched

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"Watched people are nice people."

Psychological experiments have repeatedly shown that when people are watched, they are nice: they cheat less, give more (Ara Norenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), pp 20-22). Indeed, even the least concealment increases anti-social behaviour - such as the wearing of tinted glasses. On the other hand, exposure to audiences, cameras and even mirrors generates prosocial behaviour. Stylised representation of eyes have a remarkable effect: when psychologist Mary Rigdon and her colleagues set watching "eyes" - three black dots arranged to look like a schematic face with eyes (in the form of an upside-down triangle standing on its pointed tip) - on her American subjects, thereby activating the face-recognition, or fusiform, area of the brain, selfishness declined markedly among the "observed" relative to the "unobserved", with men showing greater sensitivity than women, although men are known to be more selfish players in the Dictator Game.

Then how to explain this video by Channel 4 ?

It's been watched countless times, here and worldwide: but it hasn't changed behaviour. Indeed, it depicts an old, recurrent behaviour pattern.

Which raises two questions:

Watched by whom?

Nice according to whom?

For after the events depicted here, several polls by international organizations showed a marked increase in the popularity of the ruling party. Obviously, not everybody found the footage unnice.

During peaceful protests by school children demanding safe roads and university students demanding a more meritocratic public service exam, both groups, including journalists, were beaten up by thumotic student thugs of the ruling Awami League and their pictures and names were published in newspapers and on the internet by, for instance, Channel 4. One university protester was beaten with a hammer before the cameras; two bones of his right leg were broken, there were eight stitches on his head and bruises all over his body. He was hounded from hospital to hospital.

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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, ├ éČ┼ŻBangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL ├ éČ┼ŻTEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. ├ éČ┼ŻHe (more...)
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