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Remembering what you read online

ANU College of Business and Economics 7 March 2019

Governments are increasingly disseminating critical information to the public through websites. However, the increasing number of informational websites and amount of web-based information makes it harder for people to remember web-based information and, hence, hinders governments’ objective of improving the public’s knowledge.

A recent study from the ANU Research School of Management examined how human recall of information via websites is affected by their emotions at the time. It shows that emotional responses improve information recall and it has significant implications for user interface design. It also highlights how information providers can help their targeted audience better retain information, such as on government websites or in advertising.

A natural response

Led by Dr Amir Riaz, the research drew on evolutionary psychology to establish that imagery depicting natural elements would evoke positive (biophilic) or negative (biophobic), based on whether that imagery was representative of elements that facilitated or threatened early humans’ survival.

“We performed an experiment with national park websites that contained simulated images of biophilic and biophobic elements in nature. The websites also contained information about safety precautions when visiting a national park.”

Impact on web design

The research establishes some clear and valuable frameworks for website design that can also be applied to emotional association with content. For example, how best to use imagery in government campaigns to improve public knowledge of various topics such as climate change, health-related issues etc.

“With the increasing number of websites and amount of web-based information, people are finding it harder to remember web-based information, which affects an information provider’s objective to improve a recipient’s knowledge.”

The role that emotions play in human-computer interaction is becoming more and more important. This research helps to shed light on that relationship and could have applications in future website design.

 

Read the full research article here.


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