The Effect of Moving Images: Why we can't just look away

In this article, we will take a closer look at the effect of moving images on people in the context of digital signage and ask ourselves why people cannot simply look away from moving images.
Published on October 25, 2023

The world around us is full of visual stimuli. In today's digital era, we are constantly confronted with moving images, be it on our smartphones, tablets, televisions or in public. This has a profound impact on our attention and behavior. In this article, we will take a closer look at the effect of moving images on people in the context of digital signage and ask ourselves why people cannot simply look away.

The Fascination of Moving Images

Humans are visual beings by nature. Even in the early history of mankind, cave paintings and drawings were an important part of communication. Today, the way we absorb information has changed dramatically and moving images play a crucial role in this.

Moving images have the ability to attract our attention and captivate us. This is because our brain is particularly sensitive to visual stimuli. According to a study by L. Weingarten and E. D. Voss from 2015, visual information is processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than textual information. This rapid processing explains why moving images are so fascinating and why they attract our attention.

The Phenomenon of Movement

Another important aspect of moving images is the movement itself. Movement in images creates a dynamic and immersive experience that entices people to look longer and engage with the content. This effect was demonstrated in a study conducted by S. L. Franconeri and colleagues in 2013. The researchers found that people tend to stare at moving objects in an image for longer than static objects.

In terms of digital signage, this means that moving images in advertising displays or information screens have the ability to captivate passers-by and draw their attention to what is shown on the screen. This can be crucial when it comes to conveying information or promoting products and services.

The Psychology of Attention

To understand why people cannot simply look away when they see moving images, we need to look at the psychology of attention. Our attention is limited and is influenced by various factors, including the relevance of a stimulus, the emotionality of the stimulus and the intensity of the stimulation.

Moving images have the ability to influence all of these factors. For one, they are often able to present relevant information or messages in an engaging way. Secondly, moving images can effectively convey emotion, be it through dramatic music, compelling stories or moving images. Finally, moving images create a high level of sensory stimulation as they combine visual and sometimes auditory stimuli.

In a 2017 study by D. I. Donaldson and J. R. P. Ogilvie, it was shown that moving images have the ability to capture people's attention even when they are trying to focus their attention on other tasks. This phenomenon is known as "inattentional blindness" and occurs when people overlook important information or stimuli in their environment due to the distraction of moving images.

The Role of Dopamine

Another interesting aspect of the effect of moving images on people is the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. When we see something we like or find fascinating, such as an impressive video or an emotional scene in a movie, dopamine is released in the brain.

This release of dopamine increases our interest in what we see and increases the likelihood that we will continue to focus on the visual stimulus. This reward loop can cause people to stare at moving images even longer, even when they have other things to do.

The Challenge for Digital Signage

In the context of digital signage, these findings give rise to some important challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, the ability of moving images to capture the viewer's attention provides an excellent opportunity to communicate messages and promote products effectively. On the other hand, there is a risk of people being overly distracted and therefore overlooking other important information around them.

It is therefore crucial that companies and organizations using digital signage understand the principles of attention psychology and integrate them into their design and content. This can mean deliberately using visual stimuli to draw attention, but also ensuring that messages are clear and understandable to effectively convey the desired information.

The Ethics of Digital Signage

Another important aspect to consider is the ethics of digital signage. If moving images have the ability to capture people's attention and release dopamine, we need to ask ourselves how this power can be used responsibly. For example, excessive distraction from digital signage in traffic areas can lead to accidents when drivers no longer focus their attention on the road.

It is therefore important to develop guidelines and regulations for the use of digital signage that ensure people's safety and well-being. This may mean restricting the placement of screens in certain areas or regulating the way moving images are used.


Moving images have a strong effect on human attention and the psyche. In the context of digital signage, they can be used to communicate information and messages effectively and to advertise products. At the same time, however, companies and organizations must use this power responsibly and ensure that ethical and safety aspects are taken into account.

Research into the psychology of attention and the effect of moving images on people will continue to grow in importance as the digitalization of our environment progresses. It is crucial that we use these findings to improve the design of digital signage and ensure that it is both informative and responsible.

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