The effectiveness of photographs to communicate science in a Chinese national park

The effectiveness of photographs to communicate science in a Chinese national park

Author: Lei Zhu – Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, New Zealand

Lloyd S. Davis – Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago

The potential of high-quality photographs to enhance science communication is often disregarded and seldom tested. In this study, we focused on the effectiveness that photographs can have for enhancing science communication on signage within Xixi National Wetland Park, China. We evaluated effectiveness to communicate science using a series of variables: general attractiveness of the signs to the visitors, satisfaction and understanding from reading the signs, as well as recall of the information presented on the signs.

High-quality and poor-quality photographs were determined apriori from a selection of photographs evaluated by a panel of photographers based upon technical and creative criteria. Three manipulated signs with the same text concerning the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) were then tested successively. A high-quality photograph and a poor-quality one appeared on the first two signs, respectively. As a control, the park’s logo was used in place of a photo on the third sign. Visitors in the park were asked to complete a questionnaire after reading the signs.

We found that a high-quality photograph made the signage more attractive, increasing reading satisfaction and understanding. Irrespective of quality, the use of a photograph helped visitors remember more information on the signs compared to the control condition.

We conclude that the presence and qualities of photographs indeed significantly influence the effectiveness of science communication. However, the degree of that effectiveness varied depending upon the visitors’ different interests in birds (avid bird watchers, a general interest in birds, and no interest in birds). Those with a general interest were most positively influenced by using a high-quality photograph, while visitors with no interest in birds were unlikely even to read a sign with a poor-quality photograph. Hence, high-quality photographs are most effective for communication of science.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice