Picture superiority effect

Understanding psychology concepts is very important to predict how the target customers may respond to a certain situation. Understanding consumer behaviour is the key to a successful marketing campaign. Therefore, businesses use these psychology principles widely to reach their customers effectively via online platforms having the purpose of Conversion Rate Optimization. (CRO) Picture superiority effect is such an important principle in psychology which says that humans remember pictures better than remembering words. Specifically, pictures work more effectively than words in the processes of recognizing and recalling information. Do you know that we tend to remember 10% of what we read or hear after a couple of days, but we remember 65% of it if we use a picture to reinforce the concept? Let’s assume that you are supposed to buy ‘cheese, floor, tomato sauce and mozzarella’ to make some pizza at home. Are you going to memorize the list word by word or isn’t it easy to memorize the ingredients by mapping them with a picture of a pizza? Of course, memorizing a picture works very well to recall information. Therefore, Picture superiority effect is widely used by marketers and businesses for effective branding and communication too.

The picture superiority effect refers to the phenomenon in which pictures and images are more likely to be remembered than words. This effect has been demonstrated in numerous experiments using different methods. It is based on the notion that "human memory is extremely sensitive to the symbolic modality of presentation of event information". Explanations for the picture superiority effect are not concrete and are still being debated.

Allan Paivio's dual-coding theory is a basis of picture superiority effect. Paivio claims that pictures have advantages over words with regards to coding and retrieval of stored memory because pictures are coded more easily and can be retrieved from symbolic mode, while the dual coding process using words is more difficult for both coding and retrieval. Another explanation of the higher recall in picture superiority is due to the higher familiarity or frequency of pictured objects (Asch & Ebenholtz, 1962). According to dual-coding theory (1971, 1986), memory exists either (or both) verbally or through imagery. Concrete concepts presented as pictures are encoded into both systems; however, abstract concepts are recorded only verbally. In psychology, the effect has implications for salience in attribution theory as well as the availability heuristic. It is also relevant to advertising and user interface design.


1. Reversing the Picture Superiority Effect