Brain wave measures of attention to human faces and non-face forms and objects in print media advertisements

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Bellur-Thandaveshwara, Saraswathi
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Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication offers two majors: Advertising (instructing students in applied communication for work in business or industry), and Journalism and Mass Communication (instructing students in various aspects of news and information organizing, writing, editing, and presentation on various topics and in various platforms). The Department of Agricultural Journalism was formed in 1905 in the Division of Agriculture. In 1925 its name was changed to the Department of Technical Journalism. In 1969 its name changed to the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications; from 1969 to 1989 the department was directed by all four colleges, and in 1989 was placed under the direction of the College of Sciences and Humanities (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). In 1998 its name was changed to the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
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The sense of vision and the phenomenon of visual attention constitute some of the prime processes with which human beings communicate with their non-mediated and mediated environment. The objective of this study was to explore how the human brain, as part of a complex visual system, deploys its attentional resources to human face and non-face forms and objects, when tested as primary visual elements in basic print-media advertisement layouts. With the theoretical basis of a two-component attention framework that distinguishes between image-based bottom-up attention (50ms) and task-dependent top-down attention (250ms), it was hypothesized that faces would evoke significantly higher bottom-up attention than non-face forms, whereas non-face forms and objects would evoke significantly higher top-down attention when compared to faces. Using a repeated measures design with twenty participants, and brain wave measures or electroencephalographic (EEG) activity as the dependent variable, the study examined differences in attention evoked by four categories of stimuli - faces, products, product-in-use and abstract drawings across three cortical regions of the brain, the occipital, temporal and parietal lobes. Wilcoxon signed-ranks test showed that faces did not evoke significant bottom-up attention, whereas abstract drawings and product-in-use evoked significant attention both in the bottom-up and top-down attention frameworks. These results suggest that processing of simple and familiar stimuli like faces might be more implicit and holistic when they are juxtaposed with more novel and complex forms of stimuli like abstract drawings and products-in-use that call forth higher attentional and cognitive resources. Implications of these results for further studies of advertising effects are discussed.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2006