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Much of the research showing that perception is influenced by assumptions has come from a group of researchers working at one time or another at Princeton University.
The transactional thinkers have developed a number of convincing demon­strations that perception is based on assumptions. Some of the most striking evidence for the influence of cultural expectations on perception comes from research on binocular rivalry (Bagby, 1957). Subjects were 12 Americans (6 males and 6 females) and 12 Mexicans (6 males and 6 females).
One of a number of experiments that shows the effect of motivation on percep­tion was done by McClelland and Atkinson (1948).
The results (Table 4.2) showed that the frequency of food-related responses increased reliably as the hours of food deprivation increased.
The effects of attitude on perception were documented in a study of perception of a football game by Hastorf and Cantrii (1954). So far this discussion of research has shown that perception in general is influenced by assumptions (often unconscious), cultural expectations, needs, moods, and attitudes. A group of 396 respondents drawn from the target audience was then shown the spots and asked to fill out a questionnaire.
There were also systematic relationships between misperceiving the ads and various characteristics of the audience. The American Jewish Committee was interested in studying the effects of satire in reducing prejudice. Scott suggests that much research on images in advertising has dealt with pictures either as transparent representations of reality or as conveyors of an emotional appeal. Scott’s article brings out three ways of thinking about pictures in the mass media—as transparent representations of reality, as conveyors of affective or emotional appeal, and as complex combinations of symbols put together to make up rhetorical arguments. To illustrate the rhetorical use of visual images, Scott analyzes a Clinique ad that shows tubes of lipstick and makeup immersed in a glass of soda water garnished with a slice of lime.
The image is not intended to be taken literally—the message is not that the lipstick and makeup tubes are waterproof, for instance.
Perceiving the Clinique ad correctly requires some rather complex informa­tion processing on the part of the perceiver.
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These researchers, who have included Adelbert Ames, Jr., Hadley Cantril, Edward Engels, Albert Hastorf, William H.
One of the most striking, invented by Adelbert Ames, Jr., is called the monocular distorted room. It is possible to construct a device that has two eyepieces like a pair of binoculars, but can be used to present a different picture to each eye. Except for one matched pair made up of a person from each country, the subjects had not traveled outside their own country.
Furthermore, in another phase of the experiment food-related objects were judged larger than neutral objects by hungry subjects but not by subjects who had recently eaten.


There ought to be something more useful for kids of that age to do instead of digging in that stuff.
The 1951 football clash between Dartmouth and Princeton was an exciting and controversial one. The same kinds of forces are at work when people respond to mass communication messages, as the following cases show. For instance, 39 percent perceived that the drill sergeant was not portrayed realistically in the advertisement.
It sponsored a study by Eunice Cooper and Marie Jahoda (1947) that investigated the effects of antiprejudice cartoons. She argues for a third possibility—that pictures can act as symbols and can be used to construct rhetorical arguments. Different types of pictures in the mass media may be used in these three ways to varying degrees.
The viewer must compare two rather dissimilar things—soda water and cosmetics—and deduce what they have in common. This room is constructed so that the rear wall is a trapezoid, with the vertical distance up and down the left edge of the wall longer than the vertical distance up and down the right edge of the wall. Bagby prepared ten pairs of photographic slides, each pair containing a picture from the American culture and a picture from the Mexican culture.
Then the subject was told to forget the pictures and what had been said about them and was put in a critical mood and again shown the same six pictures. Princeton’s star player Dick Kazmaier was taken out of the game in the second quarter with a broken nose. Army television commercials to see whether viewers were perceiving the intended messages, and if not, what messages they were perceiving.
And 66 percent perceived that engaging in the activities portrayed in the commercial would not lead to a good job. Both prejudiced and unprejudiced people tended to see elements in the cartoons that confirmed their existing attitudes.
Scott (1994) has argued that we need a theory of visual rhetoric to help us understand how people process pictures, and has offered some thoughts to move us forward in developing such a theory.
She states that visual elements are capable of representing concepts, abstractions, actions, metaphors, and modifiers, and that they can be assembled into complex arguments.
For instance, news photos may be higher in use as transparent representations of reality than pictures in advertisements, while pictures in advertisements may be used as parts of rhetorical arguments more than news photos.
It is an example of a visual trope, an argument presented in a figurative form in order to break through a viewer’s skepticism, boredom, or resistance. Kilpatrick, and Hans Tech, have presented what has been called the transactional view of perception. The rear wall is positioned at an angle so that the left edge is farther back than the right edge.
One group had gone 16 hours without food, a second 4 hours without food, and the third 1 hour without food. Finally, the subject was given the same treatment once more except that the suggested mood was anxious. Also, 68 percent agreed that a senseof personal accomplishment could be gained from engaging in the activities highlighted in the spot. These people explained that the cartoons showed that other people had attitudes of prejudice, so the viewer should feel free to have those attitudes also. Further­more, this conceptualization of images means that pictures need to be processed cognitively like other forms of information.


Both types of images may be at times high in conveying affective or emotional appeal (see Table 4.3). The concept is abstract and somewhat philosophical, but essentially it means that both the perceiver and the world are active participants in an act of perception (Tech & MacLean, 1962).
This angle is carefully selected so that the room will appear to be an ordinary rectangular room to an observer looking through a small hole at the front of the room. Sometimes they see a mixture of some elements of each picture, but this usually occurs after seeing one picture alone first. Dominance was determined by the scene that was reported first or was reported as showing up for the longest period of time. All subjects were told they were participating in a test of their ability to respond to visual stimulation at very low levels. The descriptions of the pictures were drastically different depending on the mood the person was in. Discussion of the game continued for weeks, with editorials in the two campus newspapers charging the other school with rough play.
The cartoons were most likely to be understood by respondents low in prejudice and most likely to be misunderstood by respondents high in prejudice.
If two people walk into the room and stand in the rear corners, something interesting happens. The assignment of the Mexican or the American picture to the left or right eye was randomized to eliminatethe effect of eye dominance. The results (Table 4.1) indicate a strong tendency for subjects to see the scenes from their own culture rather than the scenes from an unfamiliar culture. The men went through 12 trials in which a picture was supposedly projected, but actually nothing was projected at all. They differed not only in the train of thought the pictures suggested but also in the details noticed. Cooper and Jahoda suggested that fear of disapproval by a social group was one of the factors leading to this evasion of propaganda.
The one on the right appears to a viewer looking through the hole to be very large because he or she is closer to the viewer and fills most of the distance from the floor to the ceiling.
To make this realistic, during the instructions they were shown a picture of a car and then the illumination was turned down until the car was only faintly visible. They showed a film of the game to two groups: two fraternities at Dartmouth and two undergraduate clubs at Princeton. They argued that accepting the antipreju­dice message threatened the individual’s security in groups the individual valued.
The one on the left appears to be very small because he or she is farther away and fills less of the distance from the floor to the ceiling.
This illusion occurs because the mind of the viewer is assuming that the rear wall is parallel to the front wall of the room. That is, the Princeton students saw more than twice as many violations by the Dartmouth team as did the Dartmouth students.
The illusion is so strong that if the two people in the corners switch places, one will appear to grow larger and the other will appear to get smaller, right before the viewer’s eye.



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