It always amazes me how I seem to find new areas of psychology that intrigue me. Have you heard of cyberpsychology? It's a branch of psychology that studies how we behave online, including how we create, share, and react to visual images using digital photography and online photosharing communities, also known as photographic psychology. It makes me think of a post I wrote a few weeks ago about the impact of repinning images multiple times on Pinterest.
I recently discovered the work of Dr. John Suler. (I'm having my students read his novel, Madman: Strange Adventures of a Psychology Intern, for my abnormal psych class.) And after doing some investigating, I learned that he is a also a photographer, a founder of cyperpsychology, and has an online book, Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche, that features his research on the psychological impact of images on the internet. Really cool, huh?
Dr. Suler's photos are very psychological in nature, and most have a name that reflects how he thinks the image shapes the psyche. Like "Getting into One's Emotions" shown above is supposed to reflect the complexity of our emotions. Very intense indeed.
In his online article, The Psychological Impact of Image Streams, Dr. Suler studied how we react to a flood of visual images, just like Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, or any of them. He presented 200 undergraduate students with a flood of images to see what images captured their attention, and how they registered it in their conscious and unconscious minds (very Freudianesque).
And he discovered some interesting stuff—like when we are flooded with images in the media, we may become "numb" but our unconscious mind does not. He proposed that we unconsciously remember aspects of pictures we may not even be consciously aware of. Check out these string of pictures that caught my attention.
What do you remember when you look away from them? And does that tell you anything about yourself?....Hmmm very interesting indeed:) According to the study, the pictures were different in terms of visual design and concept-- some were exciting, others more dull, yet it didn't seem to make a difference in what subjects recalled. That means there was very little overlap in the pictures that people remembered, and only half of the pictures identified as among the top 20 images that stood out were recalled later.
With this in mind, Dr. Suler proposed that visual design and concept may initially attract attention, but what lingers in people's mind is more determined by individual differences in personalities and backgrounds. So while we may notice images that are meant to shock or stand out, those pictures that we truly connect with on an unconscious level are more likely to "stay" with us. This certainly makes me want to pay more attention to images I think of long after I've seen them, don't you?
Dr. Suler's online book is chock full of interesting information about how we react to images and function as an online community, and I definitely plan to read more of it. What do you think of cyperpsychology?