We Are All Visual Learners

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How much do you learn from your sight?

Most scientists agree that about 75% of your learning occurs through your vision.

Looking To Learn

Consider infants. They pick up behavior traits by observing people around them. They process and interpret facial expressions and gestures. From a quick glance, they can tell if their parents are happy or mad.

Consider first dates. The daters spend an extraordinary amount of their attention reading each other’s body language. More attention is often placed on interpreting body language than the conversation.

We See With Our Brains, Not Our Eyes

Look out a window near you right now. What do you see?

Buildings? A lawn? Roads? People?

When we look out a window, we think we see the landscape with our eyes. In reality, we actually see with our brains.

Here’s an oversimplified way of how our vision works. The light reflects off an object and passes through the lens of our eyes. It creates an upside down image on our retina. Our retinal rods and cones transform the image into an electrical impulse through a chemical reaction. That impulse is sent to the sight center at the back of the brain. The brain then interprets those signals into images.

And this all happens in a matter of milliseconds.

What’s most interesting is that 50% of our brain’s processing power is devoted to seeing.

PSE: Challenging Learning Styles

One of the challenges I have with some of the learning style theories is that they spout that only some people are visual learners. Today’s scientific research demonstrates that we are all visual learners.

When it comes to learning and memory, researchers have proven that vision trumps all of our other senses. Scientists call it Pictorial Superiority Effect or PSE.

PSE has been tested with other forms of communication including text and lectures. Pictures demolish them both when it comes to learning and memory. If information is presented orally, people may recall about 10%, 72 hours after the presentation. Add visuals and the recall goes up to 65%.

Implications For Conference Organizers

Vision is by far the most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources. If conference organizers want participants to learn and remember the experience, they must focus some energy on the visual components of the event.

1. Understand why visuals grab attention.

Conference organizers should encourage speakers to use visuals with their presentations. Images, slides, photos and videos are critical. We pay attention to color, size, orientation and design. We pay special attention to an object that is in motion.

2. Educate speakers to create PowerPoint presentations with more visuals and less text.

The typical PPT presentation has 40 words per slide! Arrrgh! It’s time to ditch the text-based hierarchical levels of PowerPoint and create new ones. Train your industry speakers on how to create good PPT presentations.

3. Communicate with pictures more than words.

Remember, we learn and remember best through pictures, not through the written or spoken word.

What are some things meeting professionals can do to help participants engage the brain with visuals? Why do meeting professionals put an emphasis on oral communication and lectures at conference instead of visual communication?

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