Using Images to Enhance the Impact of Visualization

By Ayres, Joe; Ayres, Tracy A. | Communication Reports, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Using Images to Enhance the Impact of Visualization


Ayres, Joe, Ayres, Tracy A., Communication Reports


Research indicates that visualization has been an effective way to reduce communication apprehension (e.g., Ayres, Hopf, & Ayres, 1997). In general, this line of investigation has relied on text-based material to help people create appropriate images. However, related work suggested that visualization may be more effectively induced using a combination of words and images (Sheikh, 1986). Thus, this investigation examined whether exposing people to (1) images, (2) text, or (3) a combination of images and text is the most effective way to help people reduce public speaking apprehension (PSA). To that end, a series of drawings were developed that paralleled the visualization script developed by Ayres and Hopf (1985). Once the drawings had been validated, high PSA individuals were randomly assigned to control, placebo, text only, drawings only, or text and drawings conditions. The results of this test indicated that those exposed to text accompanied by drawings reported lower PSA and envisioned themselves as public speakers who were more in control, more positive, and more vivid than those in the other conditions. The text and drawing conditions did not differ from one another. These findings and their implications were discussed.

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* Communication apprehension (CA) has consistently been found to adversely affect people's lives. Given the adverse effects of CA, considerable attention has been devoted to developing ways to help people cope with CA.

In general, scholars have argued that CA can be reduced by upgrading one's skills (Phillips, 1968), altering cognitions (Ellis, 1962), altering one's affective response pattern (Wolpe, 1958), and/or changing one's image of oneself (Assagioli, 1973, 1976). Of these approaches, imagery processes associated with CA have captured our attention. A considerable amount of work has been generated on the effectiveness of visualization in reducing CA over the last two decades. This research suggested that visualization reduced public speaking apprehension (Ayres & Hopf, 1985; Beyers & Weber, 1993, Halvorson, 1994), enhanced performance (Ayres & Hopf, 1992), was effective over time (Ayres & Hopf, 1990), and was effective in reducing communication apprehension in interpersonal communication (Hopf, Ayres, & Colby, 1994), writing (Ayres & Hopf, 1991), and employment interviews (Ayres et al., 2001). The focus of the current paper was on work designed to help people cope with public speaking apprehension (PSA).

Even though work has shown visualization to be effective, research on visualization was limited by the fact that only text-based material has been used to initiate visualization processes and to examine the resultant effects (Ayres et al., 1997). Yet, a variety of interventions designed to use visualization as a therapeutic tool have employed both images and text to generate appropriate images (Scheikh, 1986). However, some recent work on visualization did examine text and imagery based outcomes following the use of visualization (Ayres & Heuett, 1999, 2000). Participant generated drawings were used to provide evidence that people exposed to visualization saw themselves in a more positive, more vivid, `in control' fashion than those who were not exposed to visualization (Ayres & Heuett, 1999, 2000).

The work conducted by Ayres and Heuett (1999, 2000) is certainly an improvement over the exclusive reliance on text-based material to examine imagery processes. However, even though Ayres and Heuett examined imagery outcomes using drawings generated by study participants, they relied exclusively on text-based materials to induce visualization. To be more precise, visualization (Ayres & Hopf, 1985) employed a written script that was read to study participants. Participants were expected to create a mental image as they heard the words. To the extent a person has difficulty creating images from words (Lang, Kozak, Miller, Levin, & Mclean, 1980), the effectiveness of visualization was likely to be reduced. …

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