Nature and wildlife organisations use photos of nature to encourage people to care about environmental issues, such as images of polar bears on melting glaciers. But less attention has been paid to photos capturing nature’s beauty. Can sharing beautiful photos on social media get people to care about nature?
Research has found that aesthetically pleasing images of nature can stir people’s engagement with nature and build concern for environmental issues.
The study, in which NTU Nanyang Business School’s Asst Prof Kim Eunsoo from the Division of Marketing was the first author, involved three surveys of participants from the United States.
The researchers sought to train deep learning models to predict the aesthetics and emotion ratings of over 11,000 nature images, apply computer vision techniques to identify the characteristics of aesthetically pleasing nature images, and understand the mechanisms behind the phenomenon.
According to the data, nature photos with high aesthetic scores significantly increased people’s engagement with them on social media. Most importantly, people believed that nature depicted by beautiful images deserved care and concern.
This sense of regard was shown to be driven by feelings of awe and inspiration and associations of the images with pureness. The research also explores the characteristics of nature images that are perceived as beautiful.
Asst Prof Kim says that the results of the study can help nature organisations improve their audience’s perceptions of nature through the photos used in their social media campaigns.
Find out more about the research “The moral significance of aesthetics in nature imagery” in Psychological Science (2022). DOI: 10.1177/09567976221083543.