Black Holes and Vacuum Cleaners: Using Metaphor, Relevance, and Inquiry in Labels for Space Images [IMA]

This study extended research on the development of explanatory labels for astronomical images for the non-expert lay public. The research questions addressed how labels with leading questions/metaphors and relevance to everyday life affect comprehension of the intended message for deep space images, the desire to learn more, and the aesthetic appreciation of images. Participants were a convenience sample of 1,921 respondents solicited from a variety of websites and through social media who completed an online survey that used four high-resolution images as stimuli: Sagittarius A*, Solar Flare, Cassiopeia A, and the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101). Participants were randomly assigned initially to 1 of 3 label conditions: the standard label originally written for the image, a label with a leading question containing a metaphor related to the information for the image, or a label that contained a fact about the image relevant to everyday life. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 image and compared all labels for that image. Open-ended items at various points asked participants to pose questions to a hypothetical astronomer. Main findings were that the relevance condition was significantly more likely to increase wanting to learn more; the original label was most likely to increase overall appreciation; and, smart phone users were more likely to want to learn more and report increased levels of appreciation. Results are discussed in terms of the need to examine individual viewer characteristics and goals in creating different labels for different audiences.

Read this paper on arXiv…

L. Smith, K. Arcand, B. Smith, et. al.
Thu, 9 Mar 17

Comments: 50 pages, 7 tables, 2 figures, accepted by the journal “Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts”