Judging a Book by its Cover

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By Aaron Roedel

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Abstract

My science fair project was a research project on whether people judge a book by its cover. It was originally going to be an experiment, but due to coronavirus and further technical difficulties, it was turned into research instead. This means I was researching the psychology behind human decision making, and how vision affects that. My thesis was that people do judge books by their covers because humans are vision-reliant animals. I proved this thesis in my paper using evidence from ten different resources that tackled different aspects of the question. Some research went into psychology, other went into neuroscience, marketing, and writings from various authors on how people judged their books by its cover. After all my research it came apparent what the answer was: my thesis was proven, people judge a book by its cover. The evidence pointed to this because the research showed that vision significantly affects how people make decisions, and this can easily be applied to choosing a book. My project answered the question, “do people judge a book by its cover” with a resounding yes. So no matter how many times you tell someone “don’t judge a book by its cover,” you can’t control it, because subconsciously, visual preference affects your decision making.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyT2FuZEklMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Object and Inquiry

Most people have heard the expression ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ In this lab, I want to see if people really do ‘judge a book by its cover’. For this project I will be researching the psycology behind this question, and I will try and scientifically answer “do people judge a book by its cover?” The Object of the study is people, and the inquiry is if they choose a book based on their actual preference of story or based on the cover. I had a different plan for my project, but due to the coronavirus, I was unable to do this project in an experimental form.  [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyVG9ySCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRmElM0U=[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][vc_column_text]

Thesis

My paper is writing that people do judge books by their covers because humans rely on vision the most, and are probably drawn to books with covers that stand out. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUldVJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGYSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Research Write Up

Do People Judge a Book By its Cover?

            People often use the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover” as a way of saying do not judge anything based on appearance. I am taking this expression literally and trying to discover if people really choose books based on how the cover looks. I am doing this by studying the psycology of how people make decisions, how the sense of sight affects decisions, and experiences of authors on why people did or didn’t choose their book. I use studies from Michigan State University, psychology experts from Psychology today, neuro-optometric doctors, marketing experts, and best-selling authors. Over the next couple of pages, I will show whether or not these sources show that people choose books based on the cover or on the actual story.

            In 2015 the University of Michigan state conducted an experiment on how much vision affects decision making. Do they stay put subjects into an MRI scanner to track the Subjects brain activity and showed it pictures with a pattern of dots that could be interpreted in multiple ways. They did this using a set of prisms, to ensure that the test subject’s eyes were each looking at a different pattern, displayed on a different part of the screen. According to study, the decision to switch perceptions was controlled by the visual cortex, as apposed to the striatum, which is the inner portion of the brain that usually controls decision making. According to this study, the sense of sight affects decision making far more then scientists had previously believed. According to the article published by MSU Today, “the visual cortex can essentially make decisions just like the brain’s traditional ‘higher level’ areas,” This shows that, even subconsciously, your sense of sight controls a lot of how we make decisions as humans.

            For this paper, I gathered articles written by three different experienced authors who write about why people chose their book, or how they choose books in general. As a general rule the opinions of the authors trend towards thinking that people make the decision of what book to read based on what it looks like.   Four-time New York Best-selling author Tucker Max wrote that title, blurbs story, etc. do not affect the reader’s choice when they are choosing a book. People make the decision on the cover, before they consider the content of the book. Max states in the article “Almost every potential reader will judge whether or not to buy and read your book before they have read one single word inside the book.” Author Kevin Tumlinson had similar ideas. He was writing about what readers need to see when they buy a book. He writes that often people choose a book based on past experience with an author or recommendation, but when people are looking for a new selection, they search to see a book with a cover that actually shows the story they want to read. People need to see an impressive cover that represents the book. Author Penny Sansevieri also wrote that people judge a book based on the cover. According to the article, for someone to want a book, it must be well represented by the cover. There are specific aspects what makes a cover interesting that I don’t need to go into, but essentially in order for anyone to want a book, they have to see a cover tells a story. Sansevieri states in the article, “People really do judge a book by the cover… never underestimate the power that a cover has, it is essential.” Clearly these authors feel strongly that a book is judged on the cover

          For my research into if people judge a book by its cover, I also looked at an article written with help of marketing experts and PR workers. The article discusses how senses affect what purchases buyers make. The article writes that visual marketing is very powerful and effective. Color, video, and many other visual cues cause our sense of sight to affect the purchasing decisions we make subconsciously. This could easily cause people to change a preference of book subconsciously as well. Vision can also segue into other sensory marketing, like how in a commercial for food where we can almost taste what is on the screen, or certain emotions or feelings, like joy, sadness, or disgust. Book covers can utilize this as well using visuals on the cover, such as a teardrop, or some morbid picture. Covers use the sense of vision (like most aspects of marketing) to try and make you think or feel a certain way. As I mentioned before, the visual cortex is responsible for affecting a lot of decisions that we make, which makes it very easy to manipulate our minds using visuals. This could definitely be a factor to why people would judge a book by its cover.

          Another important factor I researched in regard to whether people judge a book by its cover is how vision affects general decision making. I researched an article from Psychology Today on the psychology of decision-making. According to Psychology Today, we form subconscious opinions when making decisions because sensory cues we pick up around us. This could often trigger certain, emotions, memories or thoughts. Almost like how dogs are trained to feel hungry or want food at the sound of a bell during an experiment, sensory cues can change how we make decisions without us even realizing it. This could make people judge a book by its cover, if something about the picture causes a bias in their mind subconsciously. The last source I looked at showed that vision was the dominant sense. It was an article written by neuro-optometric doctor Thomas Politzer wrote that that eighty to eighty-five percent of our perception, learning, and cognition are mediated through the sense of vision. This means that in general, we as humans rely heavily on the sense of vision when making decisions. This could mean that visual preference could affect what book choose.  

          In conclusion, most of the research points to people definitely judging books by the cover. From the advanced neuro-science study done by Michigan State University, to the marketing experts, they all seemed to show that people are, usually without realizing it, affected by sensory cues when making decisions.  When choosing a book, this could easily lead to bias due to the cover. When given the option between to books, it is evident that many factors come into play. The study from MSU shows that the visual portion of the brain significantly effect decision-making, studies from neuro-optometric doctors show that sight is very important to cognitive ability, and marketing experts say that sensory cues are to the utmost importance when selling a product. When we put that all together with the experience of authors who say that their book is judged by the cover, it seems clear that people do judge a book by its cover, whether they mean to or not.         

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Tools and Materials

  • Computer
  • Brain 
  • Paper
  • Pencil 
  • Instructions
  • Research

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Procedure and Data

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Journal

First, I come to Mr. Okimoto with the idea for this project, he had questions at first but then he approved it. I then come up with a basic idea of I how would perform this project, and I write my object and inquiry, and some of the tools & materials I was already aware that I would need. I then researched past studies that have been done the subject and other related research. I began to survey my subjects on their book preferences on 3/12. Over the next coming weeks school was cancelled for a long period of time, so I have to rethink how I will go about making this test. (4/23) After many weeks of struggle, I have to admit to myself that due to coronavirus I can no longer do an experiment about this, so I have to turn it into a research project. Once I come to this decision, (4/27) I do further research because I need more sources for a research project. On 4/30 I work out the logistics and make a plan of exactly how I am going to approach this re-worked project. On 4/31 I finish my research and write my Data section in the lab report. As I do my research, I find very similar results in a lot of my sources. After I find ten sources of data and study them thoroughly, I begin to write my research report (5/4). Once I’ve finished, I right my Results and Conclusions and my Insights and Reflections (5/5). After that, I write my abstract about my whole project and what I have done. Then I tidy up my project and make sure everything is up to scrap. Finally I turn it in and hope for the best. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyRGFuZEElMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Data and Analysis

In an article written by author Kevin Tumlinson about the psycology of a good book cover he claims selling a book is all about what stands out, and catching attention, and not about the title. According to Tumlinson, the cover is how people make the decision if the story is good. The cover has to tell the story, or people will not pick up the book. an article written by a bestselling author (Max Tucker) for a company that does book marketing. It was on what people look for when buying a book, which is mainly a cover that stands out. Tucker says that people will choose whether they will buy your book before they read a single word. The way authors have to engage any potential reader is with a cover, not the title, author bio, blurbs, or even the actual story. According to an Indie Reader post by author Penny Sansevieri, the cover is in fact the most important aspect in selling a book. Some book critics had similar thoughts. The University of Michigan State had a very advanced study on the subject, it showed that your visual cortex often makes decisions for you. Other research from experts in marketing show that sight really affects how people make decisions when making purchases. An articles from neuro-optomeric doctors shows that vision is predominant sense in humans, and that eighty to eight-five percent of perception, learning, and cognition, come through sight. An article on how preference affects quick choices shows how small subconscious preferences (like color) can change how humans make quick, on the spot decisions, this could definitely be a reason that someone would judge a book based on the cover. An article from psychology today writes that human decision making decisions quickly is usually affect by bias due to past emotions or memories signaled to us by sensory cues that we aren’t even aware were receiving.  [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUmFuZEMlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Results and Conclusion

In conclusion, most of the research points to people definitely judging books by the cover. From the advance neuro-science study done by Michigan State University, to the marketing experts, they all seemed to show that people are, usually without realizing it, affected by sensory cues when making decisions. When choosing a book, this could easily lead to bias due to the cover. When given the option between two books, it is evident that many factors come into play. The study from MSU shows that the visual portion of the brain significantly effect decision-making, studies from neuro-optometric doctors show that sight is very important to cognitive ability, and marketing experts say that sensory cues are to the utmost importance when selling a product. When we put that all together with the experience of authors who say that their book is judged by the cover, it seems clear that people do judge a book by its cover, whether they mean to or not. The inquiry of this study was whether people judge a book by its cover or not. My thesis stated that they do judge a book by its cover because humans are highly vision-reliant animals. This was proven from all of the evidence above. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIySWFuZFIlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Insights and Reflections

I am frustrated that my project didn’t go as planned, and that I had to do research instead of the experiment I wanted. But it worked out pretty well. I am happy with the research that I did, and I think it came together well for a well-completed project that I am proud of. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyQmliJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGYSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Bibliography

Max, T. (2020). How People Really Judge a Book. [online] Scribe Writing. Available at: https://scribewriting.com/judge-book-cover/ [Accessed 14 Feb. 2020].
This is reliable because it is written by a bestselling author who works in book marketing. www.draft2digital.com/blog/the-psychology-of-a-good-book-cover/

“The Psychology of a Good Book Cover Posted by: Kevin Tumlinson 3 Years, 6 Months Ago.” Draft2Digital, http://www.draft2digital.com/blog/the-psychology-of-a-good-book-cover/.
This is an article written by author Kevin Tumlinson about the psycology of a good book cover. It is reliable because he has sold millions of books, and says the cover is how you sell them

Sansevieri, Penny. “People Do Judge Books by the Cover.” IndieReader, 3 July 2018, http://indiereader.com/2018/07/people-do-judge-books-by-the-cover/.
This article is reliable because it is well written and well-reasoned by an experienced author.

Thorsson, Johann. “Why Do We Pick The Books We Do?” BOOK RIOT, 29 Jan. 2018, http://bookriot.com/2013/05/03/why-do-we-pick-the-books-we-do/.
This is an article written by a professional book critic on if people do judge books by their covers.

University, M. (2015). Surprise: Your visual cortex is making decisions. [online] MSUToday. Available at: https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/surprise-your-visual-cortex-is-making-decisions/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
This is a reliable source because it comes from a well-established university and it was a sound study.

(“Sensory Marketing: How The Senses Affect Purchase Decision”)
Your Bibliography: “Sensory Marketing: How The Senses Affect Purchase Decision”. Spin Sucks, 2020, https://spinsucks.com/marketing/sensory-marketing/.
This was an articles written by professionals in marketing on how the senses effect decision-making, especially in purchases.

(“Vision Is Our Dominant Sense | Brainline”) “Vision Is Our Dominant Sense | Brainline”. Brainline, 2020, https://www.brainline.org/article/vision-our-dominant-sense.
This is a study done by doctors and psychologists that show that vision is the predominant sense for humans

Buddies, Science. “How Preference Affects Quick Choices”. Scientific American, 2020, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-preference-choice/.
This is a scientific analysis on how humans make quick decisions based on subconscious preference.

“Decision-Making | Psychology Today”. Psychologytoday.Com, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/decision-making.
This article comes from psychologists, it is on how humans make everyday decisions

“How People Judge A Book By Its Cover”. A Writer’s Path, 2020, https://ryanlanz.com/2018/03/19/how-people-judge-a-book-by-its-cover/.
An article by author Richard Reimsburg on how people judge all books based on the cover. [/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]