Easing the mind of people in care settings – a Visual Imagery Survey

Brett shared his story during a survey he was taking for me.

“The nurses did a fantastic job in looking after us but the environment let us down” – “Sitting in those chairs with nothing but one TV to look at between us all – It was a horrible experience.”

Brett is not alone. Talking with him and his wife about their experience recently it was only a couple of days later I heard a caller saying exactly the same thing (on the local radio station). That caller is now helping to raise funds to put visual art in that particular care setting so that others can have a better experience in future.

Clearly, our carers are more than keeping up their end of the deal, but in many cases, the environment they provide that care in, lets the experience down.

Why are we subjecting people to unnecessary trauma when we can do so much to reduce it?


To test the waters of existing research findings as well as our own hypotheses, we ran our first survey recently. To keep things simple, we asked people to have a careful look at 5 images and let us know how, or even if, each image made them feel. We asked them only to consider their feelings and not how much they liked or did not like each image.

Five images were presented. A forest scene, a red dawn ocean image, an urban scene, an abstract image and finally a blue dawn lake scene with hills in the background.

32 people undertook the survey. Our objective was to simply gauge emotive responses and to determine if there was a clear pattern in the responses. Participants were also asked for their thoughts on which image they would prefer to be given to look at in a care setting.

The results were clear cut overall.

However, there were also some interesting additional perspectives recorded which demonstrates how precarious, image selection can be, when choosing imagery to be displayed “with purpose”. In the care setting case, it is usually in an effort to reduce anxiety and increase a state of calm. Understanding how a given image is most likely to impact the viewer’s state of mind is clearly an advantage in providing the best possible value from the investment by providing a better patient experience.

Key data results

62% of respondents chose the forest scene as the image that was their preferred image choice to display in a care setting, and also brought them the greatest sense of peace (72% of respondents stating this emotional response).

26% chose the blue lake with hills scene to display in a care setting, and also brought them the greatest sense of calm (71%)

The abstract image on the other hand had zero votes to be displayed in a care setting and was emotionally challenging with 48% of respondents saying the image made them feel agitated or simply nothing at all.

The urban scene gained 6% of votes for displaying in a care setting and scored 32% “excited” and 26% “agitated” on the emotive side. Several additional comments noting a sense of feeling closed in or busy, one even citing the potential for suicidal thoughts.

Finally, the red dawn ocean scene. This image generated the most variation in responses. It received 6% of the votes to be displayed. The emotional responses of note were: calm 28% – peaceful 37% – happy 28% and various other terms noted a sense of excitement or invigoration.

Take from this what you will. It’s hardly a scientific mechanism but it should at the very least make us all sit up and understand that there is much to consider when determining the content of visual imagery placed in care settings if we really want to target the well-being of the patient, and also give them the very best experience we can when in a care setting. A place they are most likely quite anxious about being in.

We are undertaking further image surveys (one can never stop learning). Talking to care recipients from all forms of care settings is vital in any care giving practice. It is no different for us in the service we provide to bring greater benefits to those patients, easing their minds whilst in care settings.

Have you considered “how” the visual art you present to your patients, really makes them feel?

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By | 2018-07-21T02:51:20+00:00 July 3rd, 2018|Blog Entry|0 Comments

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