Picture Superiority EffectOpen Access

Picture Superiority Effect

We remember images far better than words

We’re visual creatures, optimized to process imagery much faster than words. We have a better recall of things learned with a visual aid than just with text.

Paivio & Csapo (1973). Picture superiority in free recall: Imagery or dual coding? Cognitive Psychology, 5(2), 176-206.

The study

Setup

142 people were split into 3 groups and were shown either 72 nouns, abstract words or pictures on a projector for a split-second each, with 5-second pauses in between. They were then asked to recall as many items as possible.

Results

Results showed that those in the picture group recalled far more than either word groups.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Boost your message. Visual ads are remembered better in the long term than verbal ads, especially when we are under greater cognitive load (Childers and Houston, 1984). What emotional message can you convey more powerfully with a striking, visual metaphor over mere words?

Takeaway image

Boost learning by adding in visual references. Where are you trying to change behavior? What image do you want to stick in peoples’ heads to simplify understanding?

Takeaway image

Make product choices distinct.

Images are internalized twice, both visually and verbally (see Dual Code Theory), so they stick in the brain better than just words. This holds as long as the images aren't abstract or similar to one another (Reder et al, 2006). So if you sell a large product range that looks similar, consider modifying their design or how they're presented to heighten relative differences and create a more distinct range of choices.

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Picture Superiority Effect

Picture Superiority Effect

We remember images far better than words

We’re visual creatures, optimized to process imagery much faster than words. We have a better recall of things learned with a visual aid than just with text.

The study

Setup

142 people were split into 3 groups and were shown either 72 nouns, abstract words or pictures on a projector for a split-second each, with 5-second pauses in between. They were then asked to recall as many items as possible.

Results

Results showed that those in the picture group recalled far more than either word groups.

study graph
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