In the eye of the beholder: Visual communication from a recipient perspective

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Why do viewers perceive and interpret visuals differently despite common perceptual and cognitive mechanisms? The article addresses a number of challenges in visual communication and underlines the need for empirical analyses from a recipient perspective. Perception and interpretation of visuals is seen as an interactive meeting between the recipient, the multimodal message and the situational context. The form and contents of the visual message serves as a starting point. However, even personal characteristics of the viewers modulate perception and interpretation of visuals. Differences in perception also arise thanks to different goals for the visual examination, the viewers’ expectations, domain knowledge or expertise, emotions and attitudes. Finally, the context in which images are displayed, perceived and interpreted plays an important role in this process. All of these three aspects modulate the process of meaning–making and can be studied by using a multidisciplinary framework and integrated theories and methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVisual communication
EditorsDavid Machin
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-037052-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-025548-5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Communication Science
ISSN (Print)2199-6288
ISSN (Electronic)2199-627X

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy

Free keywords

  • visual communication
  • perceptual and cognitive mechanisms
  • recipient perspective
  • differences in perception and interpretation of visuals


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