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Taking Facts Out of Context and Backing Them Up With Strong Visuals

Images speak louder than a thousand words. Everyone probably knows this saying. But images also have the power to embed completely false information into the memory.

The use of visuals is a standard process to support any piece of information or misinformation- for example, the death of hundreds of birds – out of context – a violent thunderstorm – combined with a false claim – the activation of 5G, etc. This type of visual can provide credibility to any type of claim.

See “Who is using dead birds for targeted disinformation, and why?

In an American study, two groups of students were shown a balanced-content article about the economic situation of six different American farmers, three prosperous and three distressed.

Subsequently, the two groups were interviewed to find out what they remembered. Both articles were exactly identical in content, differing only in the visuals.

In one article, there was a photo of a prosperous farmer next to his airplane; in the other, there was a photo of a poor farmer bringing in the hay with a horse-drawn wagon.

In the first interview, the students uniformly thought 37 percent of the farmers were poor. Just 10 days later, the interview was repeated, and there was a marked difference between the two groups, depending on the picture they had seen.

Those whose article contained a picture of a prosperous farmer now had a much more positive view of the economic situation of farmers. They now considered only 29 percent of farmers to be poor.

The opposite was true for the students who had seen the poor farmer. They now considered as many as 44 percent of the farmers to be poor.

This is called the “sleeper effect.” However, pure text can also have a similar effect – if it creates drastic “images in the mind”. (Source: Business Campaigning, Peter Metzinger, Springer Verlag Heidelberg, 2nd edition 2006, p. 146. Compare also: The Power of Drastic Images. Paulus, Jochen. In: Bild der Wissenschaft (August 2001), pp. 74-76.)

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