Visual Learning is one of the three different learning styles popularized by Neil D. Fleming in his VAK model of learning. There is much research on visual learners and attention spans within various groups of individuals. The visual learning style means that people need to see information to learn it. Researchers at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have completed a comprehensive research that outlines why some individuals are visual learners. This research shows that the brain chemical norepinephrine, known to help people to pay attention, is regulated in the visual cortex, the area of the brain that provides the ability to see. “A certain amount of this chemical needs to be released for optimum brain performance and ability to pay attention,” says Martin Paukert, MD, assistant professor of cellular and integrative physiology at UT Health San Antonio.
Just watching and engaging in a new lesson in comparison to reading that lesson in a written format, can play a role in increasing the amount of this neurotransmitter available in the brain. More norepinephrine is released where visual information is processed, when visual stimulation is combined with a movement, such as moving the head to listen to a parent, is paired with visual stimulus. (Gray et al., 2021)
The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain behind one’s forehead, regulates attention as an executive function. This research suggests the increase in norepinephrine released while watching the demonstration works within the prefrontal cortex—in turn boosting the brain’s ability to maintain concentration on the demonstration itself. (Xia et al., 2014)
Based on this research, simply watching something new and physically moving as part of actively watching (such as turning one’s head) encourages the body to release a more significant amount of neurotransmitters that help maintain attention in that moment.
When studying types of presentations, the researchers at the University of Minnesota found that presentations including “good” graphics were 43% more persuasive than pure-text presentations. Visual aids, especially in color, improved the audience’s attention, comprehension, agreement, retention, and action, as well as their opinion of the presenter’s credibility and preparation. (Vogel et al., 1986)
The Nielson Norman Group has studied how users read on the web, and found that users read only about 25% of the content on a page. Users spent significantly more time looking at explanatory diagrams and real photos. (Weinreich et al., 2008)
Diagrams work because they increase the speed people process information. When a piece of information is seen for the first time, it takes 13 milliseconds for the brain to recognize the image the eyes are seeing. (Potter et al., 2013)
The brain then needs to process this new information. It takes another 100 milliseconds for the brain to begin to process the information. It does this by drawing from knowledge and experiences stored deep within the brain. Next, the pre-frontal cortex kicks in to help the brain decide whether it’ll pay attention to the content its seeing or tune out the information. All of these functions and decisions literally happen in less than a second. (Pizzagalli et al., 1999)
Almost 50% of our brain is involved in visual processing.(Zacks et al., 2002) Visual processing is a term that is used to refer to the brain’s ability to use and interpret visual information from the world around us. Our eyes are very important organs in visual processing. 70% of our sensory receptors are in our eyes. (Marieb & Hoehn, 2007)
In their book The SAGE Handbook of Political Communication, Dr. Holli Semetko and Dr. Margaret Scammell showcase how we can get a sense for a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second. (Semetko et al., 2012)
In defining meanings to symbols and icons, it only takes us 150ms for a symbol to be processed, and + 100ms to attach a meaning to it. (Thorpe et al.,1996; Grainger & Holcomb, 2009)
Visual communication that increases engagement with the reader or an audience such as infographics have the capacity to reduce information overload simply because they’re more engaging.
Many visual communication strategies can be implemented to increase the learning capacity and speed of individuals. Within these strategies researchers have found out that adding merely color to visuals can increase the willingness to read. (Gardner & Cohen, 1964)
In terms of recognition and memorization, diagrams convey more information in less time and are easier to recall and comprehend. A study found that when it comes to comprehension rates of medicine labels, there was a 70% rate of understanding labels with text only which increased to 95% rate of understanding the labels when there was both text and pictures on the labels. (Dowse & Ehlers, 2005)
People generally recall 80% of what they see visually and actively engage in, and 20% of what they only read. (Lester, 2006)
Neuroscientists have been fascinated with attention spans for many years; the Internet has provided them with a fantastic testing ground for new methods and theories.
It is common knowledge that attention spans are getting shorter. The current Online attention span average is fewer than six seconds. We make decisions about a location right away, and if we don’t think it will provide what we need, we leave. (Mendel, 2015)
Neuroscientists have long used eye tracking as a method to gauge attention. They can tell what matters to you and what doesn’t by watching how long you focus on one thing.
A group by the name of EyeQuant has developed this concept further by creating a predictive algorithm using eye tracking data. You may upload your design to their website, and they will inform you in a matter of a few seconds whether visitors would focus on your site.
Eyequant has created a huge dataset of what attracts attention and what doesn’t, how long people spend gazing at various elements on a site, and what captures a user’s eye using thousands of participants browsing websites in Germany. They discovered that contrast and color, bolded text, and collections of uncluttered visuals, and faces will always attract attention.(Sketchley et al., 2020)
This is where design can be very effective in helping individuals retain more information.
Design has the power to transform visual communication. The associations the reader makes with the content they visually engage in make information memorable and easier to understand. Our brains can recognize and process images faster than text. Our brains search for patterns in the things we see and draws from experience to instantly tell us what we’re seeing. (Brubaker & Wilson, 2018)
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The 21st century is a visual time, where written text is translated into images, ideas, media, and snippets that are quick to absorb. Technology will forever transform our relationship with tactile books as we know it. The traditional notion of writing and reading has started to shift. With this shift, designers have new opportunities to think about the future of visual literacy and culture. Visual communication has quickly become the dominant form of communication on the web and is increasingly used within the corporate world. As we covered in the last section, our brains are designed to process information visually. We can see a pattern much more easily than a list of numbers. Pictures are simply easier for our brains to comprehend. (Marks, 2011)
The picture superiority effect guarantees that we recognize graphical information more readily than written content. The picture superiority effect refers to the phenomenon in which pictures and images are more likely to be remembered than are words. (Curran & Doyle, 2011) This effect has been showcased in numerous experiments using different methods. It is based on the notion that “human memory is extremely sensitive to the symbolic modality of presentation of event information. (Yuille & Paivio, 2015) Allan Paivio’s dual-coding theory is a basis of picture superiority effect. Paivio claims that pictures have advantages over words with regards to coding and retrieval of stored memory because pictures are coded more easily and can be retrieved from symbolic mode, while the dual coding process using words is more difficult for both coding and recovery. Another explanation of the higher recall in picture superiority is the higher familiarity or frequency of pictured objects (Asch & Ebenholtz, 1962). According to dual-coding theory (1971, 1986), memory exists either (or both) verbally or through imagery. Concrete concepts presented as pictures are encoded into both systems; however, abstract concepts are recorded only verbally. In psychology, the effect has importance in attribution theory as well as the availability heuristic. The availability heuristic describes the mental shortcut where we make decisions based on emotional cues, familiar facts, and vivid images that leave an easily recalled impression in our minds. These concepts are all also relevant to advertising and user interface design. (Asch & Ebenholtz, 1962)
A study published in the journal Intelligence provides evidence that the new generation is getting smarter. Peera Wongupparaj, Veena Kumari, and Robin Morris of Kings College London, analyzed data from 405 other studies to collect IQ tests and study IQ points across different nations and decades. They collected IQ test information from more than 200,000 individuals overall, collected over 64 years and from 48 different nations. Through concentrating on one component of the IQ test, the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, they discovered that, on average, intelligence has increased the equivalent of 20 IQ points since 1950s. (Wongupparaj et al., 2015)
One theory behind this observation is that today’s world is more visual than ever. The Raven’s Progressive Matrices – the subject of the recent international study into the Flynn Effect by Wongupparaj, Kumari and Morris – demands people to choose patterns from an array of stripes, lines and curves. This specific test has seen the biggest IQ increases of all. Images, graphs, and animation are frequently used in the media, along with interactive
components like hypertext associations. There is a possibility that television, video games, advertisements and the expansion of symbols in the workplace have made it easier for us to interpret pictorial cues and identify patterns. Reading habits vary based on how we engage with text, which is still changing.
Our environment is ever more fast-paced; most of the information we receive is in the form of visuals and brief summaries. It’s not that we read less; rather, much of what we read today doesn’t need as much focus. Amazon’s ebook reader Kindle, which can download a book in 60 seconds or less from its catalog of over 650,000 books, has changed the way we think about reading. Amazon sales of ebooks surpassed sales of print versions of those books for the first time in January 2011. (Adams, 2011)
The future of the book is mind-boggling. An insightful article titled “Scan This Book” offers a glimpse into the future of the book as we know it. In this article, Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor at Wired Magazine, claims that in the very near future, the Universal Library will house millions of digitized books and transform the way the world reads and accesses knowledge. Kevin expresses that despite publishers’ opposition, the world’s text content and books are quickly digitized, searched, and linked, and with this shift, everything we thought we knew about books is going to change. (Kelly, 2006)
This body of work creates the ground work for a book with visual communication strategies, designed to help individuals with varying degrees of academic and professional background in real estate, to learn, memorize, and recall fundamental concepts in commercial real estate analysis and investment.