Cameras and Safety: the subtle effects of security measures

Bachelor / Master thesis project

Cameras and Safety: the subtle effects of security measures on perceptions of safety and the environment

CCTV cameras are often used in public spaces to reduce the occurrence if such criminal acts as petty theft and vandalism, but may also affect how safe people feel. This appears to working both ways: sometimes they make people more safe, whereas other times they instil feelings of unsafety in them. It is not yet entirely clear what causes this effect to go one way or the other. Although these effects appear trivial, they may be just the opposite, as peoples’ states have also been shown to affect how they perceive their environment, thus causing a cascade of effects. Thirsty people, for instance, appeared to be more susceptible to cues in their environment that were instrumental in alleviating this state (e.g., cups, oranges, etc.). (Aarts, Dijksterhuis & De Vries, 2001). Likewise, not feeling safe may also result in a more negative interpretation of elements in the environment, e.g., causing people to become more cautious when the se a group of young men hanging around somewhere.

The studies conducted by previous bachelor and master students have provided support for these ideas (e.g., see Van Rompay, De Vries & Damink, 2015), but some aspects require further intention, such as the variable(s) responsible for camera presence having either a positive or negative effect on perceived safety. In addition, previous studies have taken place under tightly controlled (laboratory) circumstances, and the question remains whether they’ll hold in more realistic situations.

As described in the above, the current thesis project aims to replicate and, more importantly, extend earlier findings regarding the effect of cameras on perceptions of safety and the environment, by conducting a carefully designed experiment, preferably in a realistic context. Students who are interested in studying the effects of cameras in real-life situations (for instance, in a school, in a specific building, in a town square, etc.) are advised to explore the possibilities for doing so for themselves.

It is part of an ongoing research project by the dept. Psychology of Conflict, Risk, and Safety; although it is required to (to some extent) base the thesis research on earlier studies, students will have ample opportunity to develop ideas of their own.

This project is open to more than one student; they can start as soon as they wish.


Aarts, Henk, Dijksterhuis, Ap, & De Vries, Peter. (2001). On the psychology of drinking: Being thirsty and perceptually ready. British Journal of Psychology, 92(4), 631.

Van Rompay, T. J. L., De Vries, P. W., & Damink, M. T. (2015). “For your safety”: Effects of camera surveillance on safety impressions, situation construal and attributed intent Lecture notes in computer science (Vol. 9072, pp. 141-146): Springer.

Okken, V.S. (2013). Exploring space. Effects of environmental stimuli on self-disclosure. Dissertation. Available at:


Heb je interesse in deze opdracht? Neem dan contact op met de thema coördinator Sven Zebel (


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