From the Lab: The Power of Props

In The Science of Speaking, I note that props can be an effective supplement to (or replacement for) traditional visual aids. A 2010 study by Benjamin Bushong et al. suggests that props can be even more effective than visuals. In particular, when an item is physically present in the room, people attribute significantly higher value to it than when an image of the item is shown.

In the study, participants were presented with a food item, then asked how much they would be willing to pay for it. There were three different methods of presenting the food item: “1) a text condition, in which only the text descriptor (the product name) was shown, 2) an image condition, in which the high-resolution image of the food was shown, and 3) a real condition, in which an open package of the food item was displayed on a tray.” In the real condition, people were willing to pay 59% more ($1.13) for the food item than when it was presented through an image ($0.71) or text description ($0.68)!

Then they repeated the experiment with non-food items. Although the effect was not quite as great for non-food items, participants were still willing to pay 41% more for an item that was present ($1.42) than an item that was picture ($1.01) or described ($1.02)!

As this study shows, props can literally pay, so whenever you have one you can use, go for it!

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