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Visual Representation and the Prediction of Emotion
Unformatted Document Text:  3 Using the research described here, we have developed an instrument for analyzing news photographs that can help to predict their potential for creating emotional responses in news audiences. We used a preliminary content analysis instrument to code a sample of news images and then presented those images to subjects who provided self-reports of the emotions they experienced as a result of viewing the images. We used the content variables in a regression analysis to predict subjects’ level and type of emotional response. Those variables that were found to be significant predictors can be used in future analyses to evaluate whether other images will have a significant impact on a viewer’s emotions. Visual Perception The first step in deciphering how and why human beings respond to images is to understand how the brain interprets visual stimuli. Gestalt psychologists posit a process of perception that produces meaning through the assimilation of disparate stimuli into coherent wholes (Barry, 1997). Four laws in gestalt theory suggest the way the brain makes sense of an image or scene (Lester, 1995). One of these, the law of proximity provides a foundation for a significant portion of the literature on visual persuasion (Mitchell and Olson, 1981; Messaris, 1997; Barry, 1997). Theorists in this area argue that the association of meaning among objects juxtaposed in an image can form persuasive arguments. Based on these theories and empirical evidence about the way images are understood, it can be hypothesized that the emotional impact of a photograph is determined in large part by the ways objects within an image interact in space. Political

Authors: Sherr, Susan.
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3
Using the research described here, we have developed an instrument for
analyzing news photographs that can help to predict their potential for creating
emotional responses in news audiences. We used a preliminary content analysis
instrument to code a sample of news images and then presented those images to
subjects who provided self-reports of the emotions they experienced as a result of
viewing the images. We used the content variables in a regression analysis to
predict subjects’ level and type of emotional response. Those variables that were
found to be significant predictors can be used in future analyses to evaluate
whether other images will have a significant impact on a viewer’s emotions.
Visual Perception
The first step in deciphering how and why human beings respond to
images is to understand how the brain interprets visual stimuli. Gestalt
psychologists posit a process of perception that produces meaning through the
assimilation of disparate stimuli into coherent wholes (Barry, 1997). Four laws in
gestalt theory suggest the way the brain makes sense of an image or scene (Lester,
1995).
One of these, the law of proximity provides a foundation for a significant
portion of the literature on visual persuasion (Mitchell and Olson, 1981; Messaris,
1997; Barry, 1997). Theorists in this area argue that the association of meaning
among objects juxtaposed in an image can form persuasive arguments. Based on
these theories and empirical evidence about the way images are understood, it can
be hypothesized that the emotional impact of a photograph is determined in large
part by the ways objects within an image interact in space. Political


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