Clash of Word and Image?

Orange Pencil

A topic I return to now and then: the interplay between word and image.

Recently, I found that a poem I’d just enjoyed was actually lyrics to a song. Its related music video reminded me how powerful visuals are, as the language center of my brain fell quiet. That is, with my eyes busy noticing (besides the music, which often harmonized with the meaning of the words) the movement, color, lighting, graphics, editing, and distractions relating to the people in the video—I was less able to notice the words.

Try it yourself, how the eyes dominate. Once you start noticing the clothes,  hair, gestures, and so on, the poetry is lost.

At least one research study (I wish I could find it again) tested for recollection of words and images when shown together, mismatched.  When asked, the subjects in the study would recall, for example, the tomato, rather than the attached word spoon, clearly demonstrating that visuals tend to override the written word.

Related articles have discussed how images in print, online media, or on television news may affect one’s comprehension of the story as otherwise explained.

If anyone finds this research, please let me know.  I wonder if I read it in Scientific American’s  Mind magazine, that covers a range of topics I enjoy, including language and linguistics.  I searched word and image at its online site, and found over 600 articles, but not the one I’m referring to above.

This science-wild goose chase was worth it; I ran across so many other fascinating studies and then remembered an art and word project I started a few years ago.  I’d like to check my notes and sketches and consider posting them here for readers to try. I think they may work as word-play warm-up exercises.  Here’s one I posted earlier this week.

Okay. We’re at the bottom of the page.  Without looking, which (if not both) of the two do you remember posted at the top: word or image?


3 thoughts on “Clash of Word and Image?

  1. This was a very interesting subject, (of which I am familiar).

    In this particular case: If the WORD, “pencil,” had been written in another COLOR, I probably would not have remembered it… But, as it was written in the color ORANGE, I paused a moment or two TRYING to relate it to the orange fruit that was pictured—trying to figure out how/why they were juxtaposed.

    In taking the TIME to DO that, I was then able to remember BOTH answers to your final query at the end of the essay.

    (I am so PROUD of myself for this miniscule triumph…since most days, I don’t remember last night’s dinner!) LOL


    • Oh, how I look forward to your comments! Your idea about color is intriguing! I think your pause to wonder (which I’m guessing is what you would always do) is what gave you/gives you an advantage!


  2. Pingback: Sign Needed—Artist at Work | marsowords


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