Bold images and dramatic testimonials all use vividness bias to influence a person’s perspective and health-related decisions.

You’ve probably noticed that some advertisements are flashier and bolder than other forms of media or that some news stories seem to stand out more than others.

Using more dramatic and bold images in media is called the vividness effect — a persuasive effect meant to intrigue us and hold our interest.

But it doesn’t just apply to images.

If you’ve ever read a testimonial or review that seemed a little too good to be true, it may have been because of the vividness effect. It can also be used in psychology.

The vividness effect was first described in the book “Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment” by psychologists Richard Nisbett and Lee Ross.

They argued that dramatic and bold images of various things made them more likely to stick into the viewer’s mind than less bold, more abstract images.

A 2019 study found that graphic images of the effects of smoking on warning labels for cigarettes led to an increased desire to quit smoking.

Abstract information such as raw data or scientific images may not draw people’s attention, according to a 2015 review. People may be more likely to be persuaded by personal stories and anecdotes.

Whether it’s someone speaking about their misfortune as part of a public service announcement or a news story using people who lived through a disaster to tell their dramatic stories, those narratives may be more likely to stick with the viewer.

It’s not just images and television that give this effect. How many times have you tried a product or restaurant because a friend raved about it? How often do you read a restaurant review to determine whether you’ll give it a try or not?

Vividness bias is all around us — from how we decide which restaurant to try to the best air fryer to buy.

We’re bombarded with direct-to-consumer advertisements (ads) — in the form of commercials or media ads — about medications several times a day. Many of these may be geared toward mental health.

These overdramatized advertisements often use the vividness effect to encourage users who are living with a specific condition to want to try a new medication.

You may see happy and smiling people living adventurous, exciting lives because of the medication.

At the beginning of the ad, the person may be sad and not able to enjoy playing with their children or going out with friends. But after taking that medication, you may see them smiling more or happily participating in activities they may not have been able to without it.

A 2017 review found that psychiatric medications were the most heavily advertised in the United States than other medications, and these advertisements increased sales significantly. In fact, psychiatric medications account for 10% of the 100 top-selling medications.

Advertisements aren’t the only form of vividness effect in psychology. This can also be seen in testimonials, or first-person narratives, of medications or therapies.

A 2013 review discusses how testimonials can influence a person’s decision about their health and treatment.

If you hear a dramatic story about how a certain treatment turned someone’s life around, you’ll likely remember it and may even think of it when mentioned in another setting such as a doctor’s office or clinic.

It works the same way in reverse. You may remember a dramatic story about how something negatively affected a person’s life just as much as a positive story.

This, in turn, may affect your opinion.

Testimonials aren’t always the best approach to use when making an important health-related decision.

Every person is different and experiences mental health conditions in a unique way. So, your treatment plan will be tailored to you based on your specific needs.

Remember that what works for one person may not work for you.

Try to be as honest as possible about your symptoms to help a healthcare or mental health professional develop the right treatment plan for you.

If you see an advertisement for a medication and feel that it may help manage your symptoms, consider reaching out to your doctor and discussing it with them. They’ll be able to tell you whether that medication would be the right fit for you based on your medical history and symptoms.

The vividness effect, or bias, in an advertisement or testimonial is designed to persuade and hold your interest.

A compelling story or dazzling advertisement can draw your attention and entice you to try something new — whether that’s a new phone or a new medication.

Consider reaching out to a healthcare or mental health professional about new treatments you may want to try. They’ll be able to guide you and give you the information required to make an informed decision.