Butterfly Eyespots: Their Potential Influence on Aesthetic Preferences and Conservation Attitudes

Christine Caldwell, Zoi Manesi, Paul Van Lange, Thomas Pollet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Research has shown that the mere presence of stimuli that resemble eyes is sufficient to attract attention, elicit aesthetic responses, and can even enhance prosocial behavior. However, it is less clear whether eye-like stimuli could also be used as a tool for nature conservation. Several animal species, including butterflies, develop eye-like markings that are known as eyespots. In the present research, we explored whether the mere display of eyespots on butterfly wings can enhance: (a) liking for a butterfly species, and (b) attitudes and behaviors towards conservation of a butterfly species. Four online experimental studies, involving 613 participants, demonstrated that eyespots significantly increased liking for a butterfly species. Furthermore, eyespots significantly increased positive attitudes towards conservation of a butterfly species (Studies 1, 2 and 4), whereas liking mediated the eyespot effect on conservation attitudes (Study 2). However, we also found some mixed evidence for an association between eyespots and actual conservation behavior (Studies 3 and 4). Overall, these findings suggest that eyespots may increase liking for an animal and sensitize humans to conservation. We discuss possible implications for biodiversity conservation and future research directions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0141433
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Early online date6 Nov 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Nov 2015


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