It Depends Who Is Watching You: 3-D Agent Cues Increase Fairness

Laboratory and field studies have demonstrated that exposure to cues of intentional agents in the form of eyes can increase prosocial behavior. However, previous research mostly used 2-dimensional depictions as experimental stimuli. Thus far no study has examined the influence of the spatial properties of agency cues on this prosocial effect. To investigate the role of dimensionality of agency cues on fairness, 345 participants engaged in a decision-making task in a naturalistic setting. The experimental treatment included a 3-dimensional pseudo-realistic model of a human head and a 2-dimensional picture of the same object. The control stimuli consisted of a real plant and its 2-D image. Our results partly support the findings of previous studies that cues of intentional agents increase prosocial behavior. However, this effect was only found for the 3-D cues, suggesting that dimensionality is a critical variable in triggering these effects in a real-world settings. Our research sheds light on a hitherto unexplored aspect of the effects of environmental cues and their morphological properties on decision-making.