Photo manipulation: the influence of implicit visual arguments on dual processing
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Individuals view an overwhelming number of mediated messages every day, even if most of these messages are merely glanced at or given minimal amounts of attention. It is not possible or advantageous for individuals to critically evaluate all messages they encounter. In that first glance or initial impression, however, our brains process the visual arguments designed by photo manipulation presented in messages. This happens instinctually, almost instantaneously, and most often underneath our radar of consciousness. Following, individuals decide to attend to the information (or not) though conscious processing. Regardless of decisions for elaborative processing, however, the initial visual processing of photo manipulated arguments influences how individuals think, feel, and behave – whether they are aware of it or not. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of the role of implied visual arguments for persuasive message processing in three ways. First, Experiment 1 identified and provided empirical evidence for effects of photo manipulation as a visual persuasion technique. This experiment was a necessary first step in exploring the cause-and-effect relationship of photo manipulation and attitudes to better understand influences on message perception. Second, Experiment 2 tested currently used dual processing approaches for persuasive messages to overcome the gaps that currently exist. Theoretical frameworks widely used in advertising and communication research – ELM and HSM – largely overlook the influence of visual communication and visual processing. These models do not account for the current understand of the brain mechanisms and processes for message processing. Findings from Experiment 2 provide evidence for the need to refine these models to account for influential visual processing variables that are largely absent from the literature. Third, findings from both experiments contributed to the conceptual refinement of visual literacy with evidenced-based support for the boundaries of when this concept is (or is not) influential for assigning meaning to visual messages.