Sartre’s “The Look” at work

sartreJean-Paul Sartre argued in his masterwork Being and Nothingness that we, as human beings, can become aware of ourselves only when confronted with the gaze of another. Not until we are aware of being watched do we become aware of our own presence. Professor Daniel Nettle must have had Sartre’s words in mind when devising a two-year experiment at Newcastle University which found that cycle racks with posters of eyes pasted above them had 62 per cent fewer thefts than previously. During the same period those racks without eyes saw a 63 per cent increase in theft. Prof Daniel Nettle remarked “Images of eyes can have a big impact on behaviour. A strong possibility is they work by making people feel watched.”


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5 thoughts on “Sartre’s “The Look” at work

  1. A.L. Beaman et al. placed a mirror behind a bowl of candy on Halloween, and the mirror kept children from taking more than one piece of candy.


  2. Sartre refers to The Look as a the first step towards apprehending “the Other”, and thereby the self. He says “I see myself because somebody sees me . . .” and “It is shame or pride which reveals to me the Other’s look, and myself at the end of that look. It is the shame or pride which makes me live . . .”
    Here you can find an entire class on Sartre and existentialism. (One of my favourite classes with Bob.)


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