research indicated how effective visuals were in enhancing attention and
memory. But other reasons abound for advertisers to communicate through visuals.
First of all, a visual can reduce the range of interpretation a person may
place on a text. Visuals can help fix the meaning of a text. And once language
is reduced to secondary status as a form of communication, theoretically
one can communicate with the whole world. As an article entitled "International
Advertising" advised, "to globalize-- visualize". (Kernan & Domzal, 1995,
p.52) We are perhaps beginning to see the beginning of a "visual Esperanto"
where communication through symbols and pictures speaks to all. (Bougery & Guimarnes, 1993, p. 22) Of
course a major problem here is that symbols and pictures are languages to be
learned like any other and they may not translate across cultures well.
problem with visual communication is that it lacks propositional syntax. This
means that the author can not explicitly define the relationship between
images. Are two images put together to suggest an analogy, a cause and effect,
an endorsement, a contrast, a parallel, or a shift from general to specific?
(Messaris, 1997, p.x) This deficiency actually turns out to be a strength for
advertisers. First, though the Federal Trade Commission has shown interest
in the potential for visual stimuli to deceive, they have been unable to do
anything, because the claim can not be "pinned down" when presented visually.
(Rossiter & Percy, 1983, p.110) The lack of propositional syntax makes for an
oblique message that requires greater viewer participation. When the viewer
decides that the images are connected in a cause/effect relationship, for example,
the argument is a product of the viewers mind and has greater impact.
(Messaris, 1997, p.xii) The nature of visual communication makes it ideal for
advertisers and creates a series of issues concerning how children make meaning
Visual communication does not oppose reasoning or logic
per se, as the viewer can interpret logical relationships from pictures.
However, certain techniques can confuse the viewer's ability to make meaning.
As of 1993, the average shot-length on MTV videos was 1.6 seconds and for 30
second commercials the average shot length was 2.3 seconds. These numbers have
dropped every year. (Maclahan, & Logan, 1993, p.59) When the sheer number
and pace of images is so much so fast, the viewer may not be able to process
the images with the rational mind. Which parts of the mind take up the processing
of such pacing is a serious question for educators. How children make sense
of such pacing is a necessary topic for research. Such pacing may have serious
consequences for children's attention, and the expectation of a pace beyond
what is usually experientially possible may create adjustment difficulties
for children in the classroom.
Visuals can also be manipulated in
ways that can undermine the viewers reasoning. Since their invention, pictures
were understood to represent the real. But computer alteration can make a
picture "lie". In 1988 only 5% of commercials employed some digital effect,
but by 1993 90% used computer technology to alter, enhance, or create a picture.
(Messaris, 1997, p.91) At this point pictures are losing their credibility
as evidence, but the mind may take awhile to fully internalize that "seeing
is not believing".
need further understanding on how the mind processes the association
of images in visual analogy or metaphor. If alcohol is associated with
a young, attractive woman, certainly the advertiser wants to effect our attitude
about the alcohol. But how are our attitudes about women effected in such
an association? Certainly, analogies and metaphors must effect our understanding
of both images in order to work. "Love is a rose" effects our beliefs
about both love and the rose-- metaphors must be bi-directional in order to
work. Advertisers have had difficulty accepting responsibility for this type
of visual communication and claim that bidirectionality is not likely as the
viewer makes the automatic assumption that "the starting point or target of comparison
is the product itself". (Messaris, 1997, p.194) Advertisers believe
that they only effect attitudes about the product. In their theoretical framework,
association of the product with images of success, family, friendship,
love, and neighborhood do not effect these concepts. Educators could do much
to determine how visual analogies are understood in comparison with textual
metaphors. How are attitudes effected in these common visual analogies?