Daniel Morrow co-writes study that shows images on health websites can lessen comprehension

by Sharita Forrest   /   Sep 10, 2012

AUGUST 27, 2012, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS NEWS BUREAU, Champaign, Ill., Sharita Forrest — Photos of happy, smiling faces on patient education websites may engage readers, but they also may have a negative impact on older adults’ comprehension of vital health information, especially those elderly patients who are the least knowledgeable about their medical condition to begin with, suggests a new study co-written by Daniel Morrow, a faculty member in the College of Education and in the Beckman Institute.

The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, used eye-tracking software to measure the attentional processes of 41 adults, ages 62 or older, while they read multimedia passages about hypertension on computer monitors. The passages, which were adapted from material found on the NIH-funded website MedlinePlus, comprised one paragraph of text and two pictures: one picture relevant to the text content, such as an illustration of a blood vessel, and an irrelevant picture, such as a photo of people. After reading and viewing the material, participants answered questions about hypertension that were based upon the information presented.

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