Looking at pretty pictures helped a great many of us learn to read, but New Zealand research is showing the power of an illustrated prompt may extend into adulthood.


A study has now found that people are far more likely to accept something is true or legitimate if there is an accompanying picture beside it.


Victoria University of Wellington PhD student Eryn Newman has been examining the validity of "truthiness", and her surprising results are set to be published in international psychological journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.


Coined by US political satirist Stephen Colbert, truthiness is the "gut feeling" something is right because it looks or feels legitimate, without regard to evidence or fact.


In the study, Newman, along with colleagues at Canadian University of Victoria, showed people a number of claims such as "the liquid metal inside a thermometer is magnesium" and asked them to agree or disagree.


"We wanted to examine how the kinds of photos people see everyday - the ones that decorate newspaper or TV headlines, for example - might produce truthiness.


"We were really surprised by what we found," Newman said.


The research showed when a claim was accompanied by a picture, people were more likely to agree that the claim was true, regardless of whether it was or not.


Read more...


Original citation: Newman, E.J., Garry, M., Bernstein, D.M., Kantner, J., Lindsay, D.S. (2012) Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Online 8 August 2012, doi:10.3758/s13423-012-0292-0


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