It’s the Visuals

How does the brain decide what visual images it likes or not? What regions of the brain are activated by making or viewing art? How is the brain persuaded that one image is appealing and the other less so? Recent advances by researchers imaging the brain while viewing and making visual imagery are beginning to unravel these mysteries. Brain scan pictures show different brain pathways “lighting up” when viewing artwork. Turns out our brains are very fast at forming visual judgments which may predominate over words. Also, visual imagery that engages our brain processing in multiple areas rather than one area is more persuasive to us. If a visual image lights up the brain pathways that process abstract thought and also lights up pathways that respond to, say, a smiling facial expression, we’re more inclined to thumbs-up/like.

This advancing science is changing our understanding of the art of persuasion which some tend to think is all about words. Instead, what we say, the words used, are only a small part compared to the visuals. In the daily news we process not only the latest Trumpisms, but the digital imagery of the whole trumpeted picture: an actor with hubris, a practiced theatrical scowler, a neophyte in global affairs, a crass appealer to fear, anger and low instincts. The visuals are telling, which may be why Trump is so quick to comment about the visuals of his opponents.