Wearable computing: Will it make people prosocial?

Research paper by Eleni E Nasiopoulos, Evan F EF Risko, Tom T Foulsham, Alan A Kingstone

Indexed on: 22 Jul '14Published on: 22 Jul '14Published in: British journal of psychology (London, England : 1953)


We recently reported that people who wear an eye tracker modify their natural looking behaviour in a prosocial manner. This change in looking behaviour represents a potential concern for researchers who wish to use eye trackers to understand the functioning of human attention. On the other hand, it may offer a real boon to manufacturers and consumers of wearable computing (e.g., Google Glass), for if wearable computing causes people to behave in a prosocial manner, then the public's fear that people with wearable computing will invade their privacy is unfounded. Critically, both of these divergent implications are grounded on the assumption that the prosocial behavioural effect of wearing an eye tracker is sustained for a prolonged period of time. Our study reveals that on the very first wearing of an eye tracker, and in less than 10 min, the prosocial effect of an eye tracker is abolished, but by drawing attention back to the eye tracker, the implied presence effect is easily reactivated. This suggests that eye trackers induce a transient social presence effect, which is rendered dormant when attention is shifted away from the source of implied presence. This is good news for researchers who use eye trackers to measure attention and behaviour; and could be bad news for advocates of wearable computing in everyday life.