Picture superiority effect

Theory explained by Sander Volbeda

Understanding psychology concepts is very important to predict how the target customers may respond to a certain situation. Understanding consumer behavior 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).

The picture superiority effect is such an important principle in psychology that 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.

Is every image memorable?

It’s important to know that not every image is memorable equally. There are certain types of images that we tend to remember better over the others. Studies have shown that an image of an object without a background appearance does not work as better as an image of the same object with a background. Furthermore, similar studies have shown that people tend to remember the images of people, human scale objects, interior depictions, foregrounds better than the images of backgrounds, natural scenes, exterior depictions or wide angle pictures.

Picture Superiority concept in web designing

Every designer’s ultimate target is to optimize the conversion rate in their website. The stronger the visitors recognize your website across the internet, higher the chances of lead generation will be. There are plenty of websites out there who serve the same as you. How to make yourself stand out from the competition? How to create more value through an ideal website design, so that your target audience recognizes you at once? You can get a huge advantage from Picture superiority effect in psychology to ensure a memorable experience to the visitors. To invest in high quality photography is something you have to put serious thinking on, as it helps to create a great impression on your website.

1. Use high quality images relevant to what you are offering

Just as pictures play a great role in human psychology to remember things, poor quality images also will be imprinted on the minds of the people as a symbol of bad impression on your site. Including no images at all is better than including poor quality images. Secondly, try to include the types of images which are easily memorable and recallable as we have discussed above such as images of people, human scale objects, interior depictions, and foregrounds over the images of backgrounds, natural scenes, exterior depictions or wide angle pictures.

2. Use picture superiority effect to tackle short attention span

When people visit a website, the first thing that catches their attention is the visual design. If your website doesn’t have an appealing or compelling visual design, it can negatively affect you. Having proper imagery content not only grabs people’s attention, but also plays an integral role in keeping the visitors engaged for a long time persuading them to explore more which will benefit in the process of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

3. Do not stuff your web pages with images only

It’s true that pictures grab the attention of the users a great deal, but isolating them without text content will make your website look less professional. Also, similar studies have shown that pictures with words create a superior effect on memorizing things over using pictures alone. Use this nature of human psychology to get the maximum use of the Picture superiority effect. After all, people visit your website hunting information. Providing quality and sufficient information is as important as creating a good impression with the Picture superiority effect for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

4. Reflect the right vibe and brand identity through images

Right vibe can be communicated through photography, if you take the following points into consideration.

  • Set correct lighting
  • Use suitable framing
  • Use the right objects or personalities
  • Use right colors

A photograph taken by a novice under poor lighting conditions with crude framing has an Earth to sky difference when compared to a well-planned photograph taken by a professional. With poor photography, the right vibe cannot be reflected and most importantly such photography can create an adverse effect on your brand identity.

5. Your brand’s message should be reinforced by the images

Each and every image should resonate with or should be consistent with your content. Irrelevant images will add a spammy touch to your website. It’s important that your images convey the brand message in one way or the other. If your images are not compatible with the content or the brand message, the overall impression will be weakened a great deal striking the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) adversely. One ideal example for such a situation is when you use stock photographs available on the internet as they will create a generic effect, not specific to your brand and in the worst case, such photography lacks authenticity. This way too you’ll affect the consumer decisions, but it would be a negative result that you create for yourself.


We know that photography may not be a major concern in your budget allocation for the website. But, it’s always better to think twice about it as right photography can influence the visitors in many positive ways as discussed above due to the Picture superiority effect. And if you are planning on using stock photography, spend some extra effort on selecting the photos which are less generic, more specific and authentic. A little effort in photography can serve you a great deal in Conversion Rate Optimization.

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The references contain experiments and studies that prove this bias is there.

1. Reversing the Picture Superiority Effect


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