Figure 3.1

Source: Sillence et al., “Trust and Mistrust of Online Health Sites.”

While visual content in all its forms is king, quality visual content is the monarch that reigns supreme. Our ability to quickly process visual information ensures that we often can't stop ourselves from subconsciously judging a book by its cover. And while opinions of quality may differ from person to person, there are universal expectations that align all audiences that brands must cater to.

The concept that we are all united by a set of aesthetic expectations may be most evident in the ways in which we judge physical attraction. Everyone is unique in what appeals most to them, but audiences often find common ground and form collective opinions on whom we deem handsome or beautiful. While commonly held definitions of beauty are often social and cultural constructs rather than reflections of objective fact, they are nonetheless powerful. This widespread appeal is used by brands of all sizes to garner consumer trust, attention, and ultimately sell us their latest products or services.

We are so attracted to beauty that it can easily cloud our judgement and lead us to unfounded and often unwavering conclusions. This is called the “halo effect,” a term that was coined by the psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920.

In 1915, Thorndike conducted a study ...

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