Upper-Lower Visual Field Effects on the Visual Memory For Incidentally Viewed Branded Images

Jane E. Raymond, University of Wales
[ to cite ]:
Jane E. Raymond (2002) ,"Upper-Lower Visual Field Effects on the Visual Memory For Incidentally Viewed Branded Images", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 223-224.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Pages 223-224


Jane E. Raymond, University of Wales

The human brain does not analyze visual information uniformly across space because the neural mechanisms that mediate vision in different parts of the visual field are different. Recent findings from neuroscience indicate that in addition to the different neural substrates mediating vision for the right and left hemi-fields (namely, the left and right cerebral cortices, respectively), different visual cortical areas subserve vision for the upper and lower visual fields. This finding raises the possibility that visual perception and memory may be differently affected by the upper versus lower field location of visual information relative to the point of gaze. Although not extensively researched, the possibility of upper/lower visual field effects in human perception is supported by empirical findings in experimental psychology. These data imply that commercial images presented on a paper or electronic page will be encoded to a greater or lesser extent depending on where the viewer has directed his or her gaze and the consequent upper versus lower visual field location of the information. Although applied research investigating left versus right visual field placement of text and images used in advertising contexts has been reported, little or no work has investigated the advertising implications of upper versus lower visual field differences.

Previc’s (1990) prominent theoretical view of upper versus lower visual field processing generally predicts that images presented to the upper field may be better encoded into memory for the purposes of planning future behavior than images viewed in the lower visual field. This is because nearly all images seen above the point of gaze are distant, and not involved in immediate motor control of foot and hand movements. Images in the lower visual field are thought to be preferentially processed to aid these ongoing motor behaviors and therefore lower field visual processing mechanisms might have evolved to facilitate immediate on-line processing rather than to aid off-line image analysis, storage and perceptual categorization. The purpose of the current study was to extend basic understanding of how upper/lower visual field differences determine visual encoding of information in natural free viewing settings and, more specifically, to address how visual field differences might determine memory for incidentally viewed product images.

In an experiment, using a web-like reading setting, 15 participants were exposed for one second to a single colored image of either a generic object or a branded product while attentively reading and proofing short pasages of text on a computer monitor. Forty such passages were read so that 20 product images and 20 object images were presented, half of each image type above the text and half below. After completing a 10 minutes comprehension test to determine engagement in the reading task, viewers were then asked to judge a series of the previously seen target images plus many others they had not seen during the reading task as being previously presented or not. Among the "new" images they were asked to judge were products that matched "old" target products in brand, product category, or neither. Reaction times and confidence ratings were also measured.

Two main findings emerged. First, participants were more likely to recognize previous images if they had been presented above the text passage rather than below it. This was true for both products and objects, although in general products were recognized more frequently than non-branded objects. Second, they were more likely to make false recognition responses for product images that were the same brand as a product image they had previously viewed than for other products, including ones that were in the same product category. False recognition of brand extensions was more likely to occur if the previously seen product of the same brand had been presented to the nominal upper visual field.

The upper field advantage reported here may have resulted because of a preference for upwardly directed saccades, from prior experience with commercial information being frequently presented above the point of interest in a web-like reading setting, or from intrinsic differences in the way the human brain processes information imaged in the upper and lower visual fields. Although eye movement and experience based explanations may both be tenable, neither can explain why brand information was preferentially encoded for images presented to the upper visual field. Such a finding however is predictable from known differences in upper/lower visual field processing and is consistent with theories of brain and visual system evolution. If intrinsic neural mechanisms account for upper/lower field differences, then the effects observed here should generalize to a wide range of situations.

The finding that false recognition was more probable for brand extensions than for products that shared the same category as previously viewed products but were of a different brand provides empirical evidence that advertising a branded product effectively advertises its brand extensions. False recognition of brand extensions in this context probably resulted from visual categorization not functional or semantic categorization. Thus this finding indicates that incidental exposure to branded products promotes encoding of a brand’s global perceptual characteristics but not necessarily its precise product category.


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