From the Lab: Pics or It Didn’t Happen

In a 2013 study by Steven Frenda, et al., researchers found that when a fake news story about an event—such as President Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, or President Bush vacationing with a baseball celebrity during Hurricane Katrina—was accompanied by a fabricated picture which purportedly depicted the event, almost half of the people who saw the picture believed that it had actually happened, with more than a quarter of the people who saw the picturing remembering that they saw the event on the news at the time it occurred. A 2015 study by Erin Newman, et al. found that the same principle applies to simple statements as well. For example, adding a picture of macadamia nuts to the statement “Macadamia nuts are in the same evolutionary family as peaches” makes the statement significantly more believable.

While I certainly hope that you’re not intending to use the science of speaking to mislead people into believing things that aren’t true, these studies underscore the power of pictures for bolstering your claims.

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