A Picture Is Worth…

…a thousand lies, according to a 2002 article reporting how Photoshopped pictures of childhood hot air balloon rides, used in interviews with college students, successfully created false memories for about a third of the participants.

…less than 45 words, according to the 2005 follow-up (by the same lead researcher) that compared the Photoshopped photos to a 43-word story describing the balloon ride, and found that 80% of college students developed a false memory from the story, while only half did from the photograph.

Child trying to drink from photograph of a bottle. From DeLoache (2004), © Psychological Science.

Child trying to drink from photograph of a bottle. From DeLoache (2004), © Psychological Science.

….or perhaps no words at all, for children, because they have a hard time with symbols. Infants will try to interact with pictures, attempting to pick up objects in photographs or even drink from a photographed bottle (see picture); even older children won’t even realize that a dollhouse model of a room can tell us something about the full-size version unless they believe that the room has been shrunk.

….or just possibly, a thousand lives, worms, spectra, connections, search results, and votes. Depending on which scientist you ask and what they’re doing with pictures that day.

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