Social media users are more likely to click on and share news stories if they are accompanied by positive images, a team of researchers found. The team had 60 American college students view social media posts that were promoting news stories. Some of the posts were accompanied by positive and some with negative images, while some had no pictures at all. The posts appeared either as Facebook or Twitter posts, depending on the participants’ social media preference.
When the participants were asked to indicate how likely they were to open the promoted link or share the news story forward, posts with positive images significantly stood out from posts with no pictures. Positive images also appeared to outperform negative images, and negative images seemed to fare better than no images, but these latter two differences were not statistically significant.
The study also tracked the participants’ eye movements in order to measure differences in attention. Here, positive and negative images performed practically the same, while posts with no pictures were viewed significantly less (approximately 1.5 seconds compared to 2.5 seconds). Similarly, the “level of arousal” (or the participants’ self-reported level of “excitement”) was equally high with both types of images, and notably lower with imageless stimuli.
The research team consisted of:
- Kate Keib, of Oglethorpe University
- Camila Espina, of University of Georgia
- Yen-I Lee, of University of Georgia
- Bartosz W. Wojdynski, of University of Georgia
- Dongwon Choi, of University of Georgia
- Hyejin Bang, of The University of Kansas
The article “Picture This” was published by the journal Media Psychology. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
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