The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the consumption of scientific and health information by the general public.
The declaration, for example, of the State of alarm in Spain it was followed by 80.9% of the audience. This means that out of every 100 viewers who were watching television at that time, 80 were following the appearance of the Prime Minister.
This trend also translated into an increase in television consumption in subsequent days. That same weekend, the average number of minutes per person amounted to 344.
In most cases, information related to the coronavirus it was accompanied by images that represented this disease. The first photograph that saw the light, in black and white, was published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) of the United States in January 2020.
However, most of the media They have used color images to illustrate the information about COVID-19. A study, published in the academic journal PLoS ONE, analyzes how the use of these photographs has influenced us in the perception of the pandemic.
The research, carried out by the Autonomous University of Barcelona and RTVE, obtained almost 92,000 responses through different communication channels. Through a series of images, the participants classified the illustrations according to beauty, scientific quality, realism, degree of infectivity, fear, or didactic nature.
Do color images generate little fear?
Of the 333 people who participated in this study, more than half (56.8%) were women, and broadly represented by age. The most numerous is the band that is situated in 46-55, which represented 36.3% of the total of those surveyed.
Celia Andreu-Sánchez and Miguel Ángel Martín-Pascual, authors of the study, point out that the images were understood as less realistic and scientific the more “beautiful” the image of SARS-CoV2 was perceived.
However, the images that were posted on black and white they provoked in the respondents – and in the population in general – a feeling of danger: more contagious. Photographs are perceived as more educational and scientific compared to colored ones.
The study points out that “the photographic nature, the black and white and the two-dimensional attributes of the coronavirus images favor that people perceive the virus as more scientific, more real, more contagious and educational. And they do it whether they are real images of the coronavirus or if they are false.
For the authors it is “interesting that the black and white images of SARS-CoV-2 are perceived in this way, although it is difficult to explain because most of us perceive reality in color.”
How have these images affected us?
The results, the researchers emphasize, “make us think that it is possible that the public perception caused by the visual representations of SARS-CoV-2 may have impacted on people’s behavior (for example, disposition to social distance) and emotional states (for example, anxiety) ”.
Andreu-Sánchez and Martín-Pascual say that “it is a topic little studied in health communication” but that it may be “of potential interest for the use of visual media and for scientific illustrators and communicators.”
Therefore, “we suggest that scientific communicators pay attention to these results to communicate science in future health contexts, in which the behavior of the population is fundamental”, they conclude.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.