babies2A host of conventional measures have been used in the attempt to control anti-social behavior in our communities: CCTV, community policing, court orders, tougher sentencing, and “neighborhood watch” programs to name a few. One neighborhood in south-east London is trying an offbeat technique, numerous vendors are displaying images of babies faces on their store fronts in an effort to reduce antisocial behavior and crime in the area. This is just one of many examples of attempting to use neurology and evolutionary psychology to reduce crime.

A parade of shops along Greens End, a street in Woolwich, have taken to painting images of babies on their shutters. When the businesses lock up for the day and close their shutters, they reveal a gallery of portraits of local babies. The portraits were hand-painted by a collective of graffiti artists, who worked from family photos sent in by people living close by.

This same area had been previously damaged by looters in the riots of summer 2011, and residents hope that the new initiative will help to prevent similar instances from occurring. The project has been titled Babies Of The Borough, it is one of several creative methods in attempting to use the environment in an effort to moderate individual behavior.

Classical music, and pink lighting have also been used in an attempt to prevent anti-social behavior and crime. The idea is that the classical music will influence those listening to become calmer and respect their environment more. The pink lights are supposed to embarrass teenagers into not loitering around after dark, and has been installed in areas where they frequently hang out. The pink lighting exposes their acne, making it an unappealing location to loiter.

“The evidence suggests that babies’ faces, the round cheeks and the big eyes, promote a caring response in human beings,” – says Tara Austin, of Ogilvy and Mather advertising agency, which paid for and initiated the scheme

Better results may actually be seen by switching to blue light, which contributes to a 9% drop in crime in Tokyo (and very similar results everywhere it is has been applied, like in Glasgow). These are only some of many attempts at neurology and evolutionary psychology to help reduce crime.

According to research published in the journal NeuroImage, regions of their brains that normally precede speech, movement and emotional reward are activated when adults view images of babies. Author Marc H. Bornstein, head of the Child and Family Research Section of the Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development, stated that images of babies faces triggered a deeply embedded response to care for that child.

The study involved showing a group of men and women a series of photos while recording their brain activity with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. The participants viewed images showing the faces of puppies, kittens, full-grown cats and dogs, as well as human infants and human adults.

When the participants viewed the human infants, brain activity in regions that would typically “light up” just before picking up a child or talking to an infant, the researchers noted. The pattern didn’t show up when participants looked at photos of animals, even baby animals. This may indicate an evolutionary mechanism which has helped people avoid harming their infants (even if awoken for the umpteenth time), helping foster bonds with a human not yet capable of giving back, and helping ensure that they are taken care of even in hard times. Of course, it may also help by adding art to the neighborhoods.

Is it smart to use evolutionary psychology to dissuade violent or destructive behavior, instead of merely seeking to punish wrongdoers afterwards. A focus on prevention beforehand (both for the public and police), and rehabilitation afterwards, may go a lot farther, for less money, than a militarized police state.