Using images that shock...

Apr 21, 2011


This topic was recently explored at a high level - here in a thread about Domestic Violence learning

I have the opportunity to create a handling course that shows the result of chemical accidents. This immediately lends itself to scenario-based work, however....I also have some rather "disturbing"  images - acid burns....that sort of thing.

So - pump up your creativity glands folks....should I:

1> Try and do the (old) "Show the image for a second, than have it fade out again"?

2> Put all of them together into a collage - "The Wall of Juicyness" Labelled Graphic?

3> Perhaps "Match the injury to the accident" Image Drag and Drop?

What techniques could be powerful, yet retain good learning principles mixed with a healthy dollop of shock?

This is only a small section in an otherwise "technical" course, but it does offer the chance to do something a bit different.

I would be interested to hear people's views.


16 Replies
Adrian Gates

I love your ideas.

> Have the pics apear alongside incorrect answers in a safety quiz as negative reinforcement.

> If you want to protect the squemish, you could blur the picture and instruct the student to click to reveal the damage, then make it a clickable link to a hidden slide with the clear, full res graphic.

Steve Flowers

I'd consider tying the picture into the consequence of a decision chain by using a story that exposes a thought process and highlights the factors that contributed the most to the consequence. You could even use surprise by building up, foreshadowing, and then changing the decision and... Bob avoided the fate of these three poor souls by choosing safe practice X.

Shock images are neat for getting attention and as curiousities, but you really want to forge a desired pathway to the cognitive task, no?

Robert Kennedy

I suppose it depends on the shock of the pix.  But you could always post disclaimers at the beginning of the course or a WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES sign that would appear before the photo reveal, which would be done at the learner's choice.  Of course, if everybody is like me, once you post a warning, of COURSE I'm gonna want to see it .

James Brown

I'm with Steve and you could link it into the consequence of doing something incorrectly. For example, you may have a storyline, "Joe is a new worker and he needs to work with materials that corrosive. Then you may use drag and drop to equip Joe to handle the materials however after the equipment is added, and if you don't select the proper equipment than  come up with the consequences slide. I..e Joe is working with a nuclear hazard and the gloves you selected were for working with chemicals. Joe obtained the following injury. Then maybe go into a first aid scenario. How would you treat this injury?

James Brown

If you'll also notice something. I used three different hazard signs which forces the learner to observe the type of hazardous environment they will be working in. Of course this is just a rough draft idea and it certainly could be spruced up but you could have various equipment options for use in each scenario. If they get the right equipment, no problems. If they get the incorrect equipment, then, "Houston, we have a problem."

Danny Simms

Here is a link to a video produced by the Heart Foundation: 

It is titled 'I wish I could have my heart attack again'.

The premise is a person has died due to not recognising the symptoms of a heart attack and followed the progression of the heart attack and what they should have done to avoid the worst case scenario.

Perhaps this concept could be use for your project. It starts off with an image and voice over of a person with bad burns saying 'I wish I followed the correct procedure...'  and traces their progression of mistakes and what they should have done.

I am sure you get the idea.

David Anderson

Danny Simms said:

Here is a link to a video produced by the Heart Foundation: 

I am sure you get the idea.

Great example of a dramatic opening! It wouldn't be hard to do with still and fading images and a voice over. Maybe a heartbeat sound in the background that either slows down or speeds up--depending on whether you're going back in time or forward from the first signs of heart attack.

Linda Lorenzetti

The Workplace Safety Insurance Board in Canada did a bunch of commercials a few years ago that we're shocking. Some hated them, but it got the message across.  Here are some of them  After these they made others that had a happier ending.  Funny, I remember all of the nasty commercials, but few of the happier ending ones.

Leo Clinton

That's a good question. I was on here reading about something else and created an account just to join in this discussion because I have lately been working with disturbing training subjects in my role. 

I think the training and its needs need to be evaluated to see if the images match the training. I prefer to use disturbing imagery sparingly and if it's absolutely the only way I can show how to accomplish something.

If the skin damage from acid has to be shown to help people treat or diagnose those injuries, then I would use the images as part of that training. However, if it's just to scare people, I wouldn't use them.

Keep in mind that disturbing imagery tends to have a psychological impact that can detract from the course. I recently worked with a few horrific training powerpoints that were handed to my company from a client. In some cases in those powerpoints shock was used for the sake of it. On some screens I could just imagine the grin on the person's face as he assembled the presentation. One of the slides contained a picture that was extremely sad and gruesome - it was just terrible - and yet it was supposed to be uplifting for the student to see. I was bewildered. And frankly the pictures took time to for me to process and move on from. I always did my best to cover the pictures with my hand.

I know that if I had to present that subject in a classroom, rather than force horrific imagery upon students, I would actually consult with a psychologist to see what the effects are of gruesome imagery on people and how to train on those subjects.

By the way, I did have to develop training based on those powerpoints, but the training only showed what needed to be shown for the students to accomplish their tasks and we didn't use any images from the powerpoints - we created our own. There was no shock or gore for the sake of being gruesome. 

So although you don't seem to be doing that with your training, I did want to include my experience because I think you brought up a subject that we in training don't think about until we have to deal with it. It should be talked about more.

Good luck and thanks for presenting your situation.

Danny Simms

I remember reading somewhere in another post about turning the idea around. Perhaps you could write your lesson from the chemicals' perspective.

 Chemicals with a conscience that are fed up being labeled bad and want to set the record straight.  'We are not bad, just misunderstood'.  Let the chemicals tell the story on how they wish to be treated.

Almost sounds ridiculous now that I have typed it but this forum is about creative thinking, so there you are.

Bruce Graham

Many thanks for all the answers, hugely appreciated.

Leo - some very perceptive comments, hope to see you around the boards.

I will be presenting some thoughts to the client this week. I may not be able to directly link the pictures and the First Aid, however, I want to do more t han the current "...and here's what happens if you pour acid into your eyes..." type of position, (and there's a sentence I never thought I'd be writing when I started on  this journey of ID discovery.....).

Thanks all.

This is almost bordering on a "taboo" topic, and it's the sort of thing I absolutely ADORE exploring.


Sasha Scott

Hi Bruce

I've done quite a lot of safety courses on hazards like petrochemical, electrical etc. and I would say as Leo does, I would use that kind of imagery *very* sparingly if at all.

- "Shock value" will affect everyone in a different way, so it could be counterproductive - people can be sensitive i.e. do you want your learner to do their job properly, or do you want them to be too afraid to do their job properly (or at all)?

- Some people may take it as confrontational or some kind of infringement on their peace of mind (i.e. "Why do I have to look at this horrible image? I think I'll click the "close" button...") which is also the kind of reaction you probably don't want

- With clients it has always been sensitive to show actual cases which are or are implied to be "someone's fault" - you get questions from reviewers like "Which of our facilities did this happen at? I don't think we should show it." Even when you explain it wasn't at one of their facilities, they say "Well people might think it is one of our facilities and get the wrong message..."

I have found that careful subtlety is really the only way. For example if you show a metal circuit box that has been destroyed by an electrical blast, or steel girders that have been melted by fire, the message is implicit - "what do you think that kind of energy would do to you if you got in its way"? With no need to be explicit...

Hope that helps / is relevant for your content...



Steve Flowers

Expanding a bit on Sasha's comment. We built an eye protection safety course and managed to get some video produced by a local state. There weren't gruesome images in the video. Instead (and I thought this was brilliant) they took a video of a styrofoam (like you'd find in a wig store) mannequin head with eggs where the eyes should be. It didn't look anything like a real human head outside of form. They then put a variety of safety glasses (some insufficient) on the mannequin and fired a projectile at the glasses. The glasses that didn't work... let the yolk out.

For chemical burns you could do the same thing. Possibly using the skin of a fruit to show what could happen (irritants would be difficult to replicate) but I think you see what I mean. Not gruesome, just a parallel representation that is "like" skin.

Bruce Graham


Thanks for your insightful and learned suggestions. I had the first meeting with the client yesterday, and we do seem to have a huge will on their part to take new ideas.

I will take your ideas to them, and they have some video capability, so I am sure that something along the lines of the 2 posts abve will be possible.

Many thanks again for your contributions.


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