Very interesting breakfast meeting last Thursday, hosted by Hall & Partners, about HERD and Herd theory.
It struck me during the q&A that it’d be useful to log here some of the many examples I’ve collected of our species’ Herd-design: that is our suitability – both physically and psychologically – for human-to-human interaction.
Take for example, human eyes. Curiously contrasting in appearence and adjustable by the body according to light levels and other – sometimes ‘darker’ – stimulus. Our faces are flat and largely hairless which allows the eyes to be even more expressive than those of our primate cousins – important for both adults and infants in our social interaction.
We look in to each others’ eyes to check whether the truth is being told – we use this as a metaphor for the same thing. We look into each others eyes at moments of high intimacy and I’m told the bonding between couples is enhanced by face-to-face sex…
But eyes also work on us in a much more subtle and interesting way. They keep us in line. You know the feeling of being watched? Well, one psychologist, Melissa Bateson found that contributions to the honesty box in the psychology department communal coffee room increase 3-fold when a pair of eyes is stuck on the wall.
The eyes don’t need to be human though to have this effect: two American researchers found that contributions to the collective pot in a group based games was increased by 30% if subjects were exposed to pictures of a big-eyed, cute robot.
All of which suggests to me that other people – not things – are why our eyes are as they are.