London: Children avoid cheating if told they are being watched by an invisible Godlike princess, according to researchers at the University of Kent in Canterbury.
The study involved 39 kids from Belfast who took part in a hit-the-target game designed by Jared Piazza at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, and colleagues. The rules of the game were difficult enough to make cheating seem like the only way to win it.
They also made the kids believe that an invisible princess named Alice might be in the room while they played.
While secretly being videoed, each child played the game either with an adult present, with no one present, or with no one except "Princess Alice" present.
Before the game began, all the participants were asked if they believed Princess Alice really existed. Of 11 children who did, only 1 cheated in her ‘presence’.
Five of the seven disbelievers cheated, but not before they’d manually checked the Princess didn’t exist by running their hand over the chair to feel if she was there.
"This is an interesting example of an audience effect and the drive to preserve our reputation," New Scientist quoted Chris Frith of University College London, who was not involved in the study, as saying.
"It’s certainly consistent with the idea that belief in an invisible watcher will increase social-norm conformity," he added.