Depict Body Movements Without Slow Motion

If somebody is riding a bike in slow motion, your brain will struggle to simulate this action because this body movement is unnatural

Nick Kolenda
Updated on
Crossed out picture of biker moving in slow motion

Advertisers love slow motion.

Turn on the television, and you'll see a sentimental commercial with a collage of slow motion shots.

Sequence of shots from a commercial using slow motion

But does it really work? Turns out…not really.

In a recent study, slow motion reduced the effectiveness of ads (e.g., clicks, likes, comments, persuasion). But only when it depicted human motion (Yin, Jia, & Zheng, 2021).

The reason? Slow motion emphasizes the “intentionality” of decisions. 

In another study, mock jurors watched surveillance footage of a shooting. If they watched a version in slow motion, they were more likely to convict the defendant with first-degree murder because it seemed like this person had more time to contemplate the decision (Caruso, Burns, & Converse, 2016).

In advertising, slow motion triggers skepticism because it orients viewers toward the intentionality of these people (i.e., to persuade).

However, I see another culprit.

Humans have mirror neurons. If you see somebody eating a cookie, your brain simulates this sensation — as if YOU are eating a cookie.

Slow motion can backfire because it impedes this effect. If somebody is eating a cookie in slow motion, your brain will struggle to simulate this action because your body doesn't move in slow motion. It’s unnatural. Real motion is easier to imagine.

A similar effect happened in another study: Males preferred ads with quick and forceful motion, yet females preferred ads with smooth and gentle motion (Mailk & Sayin, 2021).

Close-up shots from commercial of hand wiping surface and ironing

You prefer the motion — fast vs. slow — that feels like you. This mimicry strengthens your immersion into the ad.


  • Humans don’t move in slow motion. Neither should actors that portray your customers.
  • Slow motion is still effective for inanimate objects. Just not human motion.
  • Help viewers simulate actions. Did you notice that the previous images were right hands? Since most people are right-handed, this orientation feels more familiar and immersive (see my book Imagine Reading This Book for more ideas).

  • Caruso, E. M., Burns, Z. C., & Converse, B. A. (2016). Slow motion increases perceived intent. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(33), 9250-9255.
  • Malik, S., & Sayin, E. (2022). Hand movement speed in advertising elicits gender stereotypes and consumer responses. Psychology & Marketing, 39(2), 331-345.
  • Yin, Y., Jia, J. S., & Zheng, W. (2021). The effect of slow motion video on consumer inference. Journal of Marketing Research, 58(5), 1007-1024.