Seeing is believing

My last few posts have centered on just how industries are essentially playing on our own senses of normality and portray images of women and men which reinforce societal ideals as to what has become the standard of beauty or the characteristics a man should have. Even though we know such images are there to sell us things and that they are enhanced they still have real impacts on us. Often we feel inadequate when we see such images. Think about it, how often do you catch yourself admiring an advertisement and wished you resembled that model or how often have you been sitting on the couch, vegging out with 2 of the greatest guys known to man, one called Ben and the other Jerry, when you see an image of some person looking far too good for going to the gym, and you can’t help but feel that twang of guilt?

Okay so the story is old, but then why do we keep falling for it? We dismiss ad claims as unrealistic. I mean the slow swooshing of the girl’s hair which shines, shimmers and looks like a satin sheet, we dismiss as ludicrous. But all too soon we find ourselves sulking around the store and picking up the product we saw working so wonderfully well all the while the product managers are laughing their way to the bank. This post shall explore how fake images can really change our memory and behaviour and this is why those photoshopped images work so well.

The issue relates to the fact that for some reason, when our brain sees an image, it interprets it as fact almost. Images are very strong simply because each of us sees an image as a moment in time, real time, and it becomes very difficult for us to see that image as anything but true. For example, according to a recent post by the BBC, in one study participants were shown pictures from their childhood. The researcher, unknown to the participant, then placed in the pile of photos a photoshopped image of the participant from their childhood in a hot air balloon. The event was entirely made up but 50% of the participants had admitted that they remembered the event. The fact is that the image was so powerful and because the evidence was in front of them, the only logical reason was that the event had in fact taken place. Okay, so one of the things that hit me about this was how participants may have made up the fact that they remembered because the photo because they didn’t want to look foolish in front of the researcher, but some were so adamant that the event had taken place.

However, it has also been argued that more people are likely to believe fake images that add weight to their beliefs. For example, if you decided to become fitter and without doing any research, have a general knowledge that eating healthy foods will play a part, then when an image of an individual drinking some new juice drink will act as an affirmation to what you already know, or believe to be true and so the image cannot but be deemed reputable because it agrees with our beliefs in even a small way.

Another major reason why we buy into fake images is because; well in fact we are really bad at telling the difference between real and fake images. Farid (some important scientist dude) stated how “when presented with doctored images, humans are remarkably inept at telling which ones are fake and which are real”. We are even worse again at analysing lighting and other small elements. Even when we are told the image is faked, enhanced, photoshopped we tend to forget this aspect of it, but remember far more clearly the image itself as we saw it and so when we access that memory again, we recognise the image as real.


So it seems that it is quite hard for us to recognise an image which is real and one which has been edited in the first place (unless you have a really bad editor I guess) and secondly we often forget that the image is adjusted later on when we recall that memory or it is triggered once again. Great. We are biologically pre-programmed to believe what we see as real, even if its fake.


Eveleth, R. (2012). How fake images change our memory and behaviour. [online] BBC Future. Available at: [Accessed 25 Feb. 2015].