Confusion and Information Triggered by Photos in Persona Profiles

For one of our research projects we investigate whether additional photos beyond a single headshot makes a persona profile more informative without confusing the end user.

We conduct an eye-tracking experiment and qualitative interviews with digital content creators after varying the persona in photos via a single headshot, a headshot, and photo of the persona in different contexts, and a headshot with photos of different people with key persona attributes the gender and age.

Findings show that contextual photos provide significantly more persona information to end users; however, showing photos of multiple people engenders confusion and lowers informativeness. Also, as anticipated, viewing additional photos requires more co.gnitive focus, which is measured by eye-tracking metrics; these metrics are correlated with levels of informativeness and confusion.

Furthermore, various interpretations of the persona based on the choice of photos are biased by the end users’ experiences and preconceptions.

Concerning persona design, findings indicate that persona creators need to consider the intended persona use objectives when selecting photos and when producing persona profiles. Using contextual photos can improve informativeness, but this demands more cognitive focus from end users.

Thus, adding contextual photos increases the perceived informativeness of the persona profile without being obfuscating, but multiple photos of different people do evoke confusion about the targeted persona.

Salminen, J., Jung, S.G., An, J., Kwak, H. Nielsen, L., and Jansen, B. J. (2019) Confusion and Information Triggered by Photos in Persona Profiles. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. 129(2019), 1-14

Author: Jim Jansen

Dr. Jansen is a Principal Scientist in the social computing group of the Qatar Computing Research Institute, and a professor with the College of Science and Engineering, Hamad bin Khalifa University, and an adjunct professor with the College of Information Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University. He is a graduate of West Point and has a Ph.D. in computer science from Texas A&M University, along with master degrees from Texas A&M (computer science) and Troy State (international relations). Dr. Jim Jansen served in the U.S. Army as an Infantry enlisted soldier and communication commissioned officer.