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The power of art for communicating complex health technologies




Scott, Stephanie Marie, author
Martey, Rosa Mikeal, advisor
Anderson, Charles, committee member
Abrams, Katherine, committee member

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This project examines whether art can influence audience perceptions of complex health technologies, specifically, brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies. This study used an experiment to test hypotheses about differences between those who see text about the technology, text and a scientific illustration of the technology, and text with an artistic representation of the technology (compared to a control), to determine whether an artistic representation of a new health technology can serve as an effective tool for increasing trust, comprehension, and interest of N=86 students from Colorado State University. This project used text and visual representations of brain-computer interface technologies to assess whether artistic representations of BCI influence trust, interest, and comprehension of the technology. Hypotheses 3 was supported, finding that that there were some significant effects for artistic visual and textual information on participants' levels of understanding. The findings of this study help us to better understand the role of visuals in communicating science and technology in health, especially in order to improve trust in complex new technologies. It also contributes to our understanding of the role of more abstract forms of representation, such as artistic works, in perceptions of technology. Additionally, this research can help practitioners improve and broaden their communication efforts in cultivating more positive perceptions among various publics of new health technologies. Future work could focus on exploratory efforts designed to gain greater insight and further understanding towards the impact that art and images within medical spaces and communities generates. This work provides a step towards better understanding art and its persuasive goals within communicating complex information and moves research efforts closer towards recognizing how artistic content may change perceptions. Visual representations in media have the ability to transport a viewer through an abstract narrative, and considerable research has shown that visual information contributes powerfully to people's understanding of facts, ideas, and stories. However, that research almost always examines realistic or highly representative imagery such as diagrams, photographs, or sketches. In contrast, little is known about the role that more artistic and abstract visual messages might play in people's perceptions of health and health-related technologies. This study measures the impact of viewing art related to a new health technology, brain-computer interface (BCI) systems. It asks, can abstract art representations of a complex health technology increase trust in and improve individuals' understanding of that technology?


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brain computer interface systems
multimedia learning theory
visual communication
health technologies


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