Defining Visual Rhetorics: Psych of Rhet Images

Hill, Charles A. “The Psychology of Rhetorical Images.” Defining Visual Rhetorics. Eds. Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. 571-889 of 6169. Ebook.

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Hill will concentration on “representational images,” which are “only a subset of the types of visual elements that could be productively examined” (571 of 6169).

His research question is, how do images do the work of persuading? (576 of 6169)

“a full theoretical treatment of visual persuasion … attempts to explicate the processes by which images exert their rhetorical influences” (581 of 6169)

“analyze the ways in which culturally shared values and assumptions are utilized in persuasive communication” (583 of 6169)

“cognitive processes may be said to be the mechanisms through which the influences of culture operate” (588 of 6169)

“discuss the influence of shared cultural values” (590 of 6169)

General idea is that images evoke emotional response (595 of 6169). Because they do, they are seen as non-rational and therefore not arguments and not persuasive (599 of 6169).

A “concept that seems especially applicable to the study of images is the concept of presence as discussed by Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca (The New Rhetoric 115-120)” (619 of 6169).

presence = “the extent to which and object or concept is foremost in the consciousness” (643 of 6169)

“The most effective way to increase an object’s rhetorical presence is to make it physically present–to actually bring it into the room” (653 of 6169).

presence is inherently linked to visual perception” (656 of 6169)

“In Peirce’s terms (239-240), a photograph is an ‘index'” (665 of 6169).

The most powerful of images do not precipitate logical thought, but instead “prompt a visceral, emotional response” (673 of 6169).

Using concrete language makes a verbal argument stronger (679 and 690 of 6169).

Just as powerful images do, concrete words invoke emotional responses (685 of 6169).

[V]ivid information is identified as information that is emotionally interesting and concrete (Nisbett and Ross)” (692 of 6169).

StudentThere are two blank pages, headed by the words “Most Vivid Information” (700 of 6169). I wonder what the purpose of this was? Is there an image that disappeared in the ebook or is this some visual argument I am missing? I think it must be, because the next heading is “Least Vivid Information” (702 of 6169).

Information seems more persuasive as it increases in vividness (706 of 6169).

“[V]ivid language makes a persuasive message easier to comprehend and more likely to be remembered, but only if the vivid elements are clearly and explicitly relevant…” (713 of 6169).

Vividness makes a strong argument stronger (720 of 6169).

“images, which are comprehended holistically and almost instantaneously, tend to prompt heuristic processing. … vivid images tend to overpower verbal arguments in a decision among opposing or controversial claims” (735 of 6169).

“Once the association between a particular image and a value is created and internalized, the image becomes a symbol for the abstract value and can be used to trigger its associated emotions” (784 of 6169).

First, persuasive elements that instantiate strong emotions in the audience tend to have an extraordinary amount of persuasive power. Second, this phenomenon seems to be related to visual perception. (791 of 6169)

You can’t just show an image and be persuasive. (795 of 6169)

Ads work by “continually displaying visual associations between the product and some object or symbol that is already schematically tied to a positive value” (807 of 6169).

“implied connections are not likely to be questioned or challenged”(812 of 6169)

“[A]dvertisers want to transform people. They want to compel people to buy a product without even knowing why they’re buying it–as a visceral response…” (820 of 6169).

“classical conditioning has been shown to work in humans” (825 of 6169)

affect transfer (psych term) = “an emotional response from an unrelated object or event is transferred to the product being sold” (825 of 6169)

“[W]e may learn how to use images to prompt sustained reflective thinking instead of using them to discourage it” (837 of 6169).

“Rhetorical images are ubiquitous” (840 of 6169). What other kind of images are there?

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WC CC3 by Twice25
Relevant readings:
Alfredo Campos, Jose Luis Marcos, adn Maria Angeles Gonzales. “Emotionality of Words as Related to Vividness of Imagery and Concreteness.” Perceptual and Motor Skills 88 (1999): 1135-40.

Roy F. Fox. “Where We Live.” Images in Language, Media, and Mind. Ed. Roy Fox. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1994: 69-91.

Paul Messaris. Visual Literacy: Image, Mind, and Reality. Boulder, CO: Westview P, 1994.

Linda M. Scott. “Images in Advertising: The Need for a Theory of Visual Rhetoric.” Journal of Consumer Research 21 (1994): 252-73.

Stephen M. Smith and David R. Shaffer. “Vividness Can Undermine or Enhance Message Processing: The Moderating Role of Vividness Congruency.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26 (2000): 769-79.


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