As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And while that has never been proven scientifically, we now know that pictures, in general, provoke more emotions than words do.
A new study out of the University of California, San Diego used soft drinks to measure how people react to visual stimuli and words. It showed that, when people are briefly presented with 'positive' images, they are more likely to drink more of the soft drink.
The idea is that happy people will drink more of it, while sad people will drink less.
The researchers showed their subjects a series of neutral images very briefly, interspersed with either 'positive' images or 'negative' images (smiling versus scowling faces, for example, or a cute dog versus a gun).
They also did the same with 'positive' and 'negative' words, such as 'panda' or 'knife'. They found that the pictures of 'positive' objects and facial expressions made the participants drink more soda, but the positive words didn’t seem to have that effect.
So even though the participants said the words had emotional value, the words didn’t actually make them feel any differently.
Also, the researchers learned that it didn’t matter how long the subjects saw the picture or word: 10 milliseconds versus two seconds produced roughly the same response.
Now that they know this, the researchers want to find out why pictures are more powerful than words. And I second this research. After all, my career as a journalist depends on it.