Visual thinking

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“When it comes to memory, researchers have known for more than 100 years that pictures and text follow very different rules. Put simply, the more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized and recalled. The phenomenon is so pervasive, it has been given its own name: the pictorial superiority effect, or PSE.” John Medina, Brain Rules.

The message is clear. If you’re trying to commit information to memory, pictures win hands down over text every time. I found this out for myself when I embarked on what turned out to be many years of studying about 10 years ago. I only intended to take one course in psychology out of interest, and that turned into a degree followed by an MSc. I needed  a way to somehow simplify, organise and learn the mass of information that was hurtling at me.

Tony Buzan’s mindmaps came to my rescue. Here was a way to chunk down complex information to make sense of it (and recall it  later  to churn out exam answers). The more colourful you make it, and the more images you build in (keeping text to single words if possible), the better your brain ‘photographs’ the map and the better the recall. I personally think there is value in drawing the maps yourself, rather than using software packages, but others may disagree. For me, there is something about slowing down to draw that allows my head to make more and better associations: the key to integrating new information into what’s there already. Above is a quick mindmap to capture thoughts for this blog post.

Now I use mindmaps for client coaching notes,  planning anything from presentations to my business direction, and learning (just can’t seem to stop). Working on the same principles, I’m using graphic recording, facilitation and handouts in my workshops (example below from a recent presentation on creative problem solving).

Find out more about the brain’s preference for all things visual at John Medina’s excellent site http://www.brainrules.net/vision and then promise me you’ll ditch those wordy PowerPoint slides?

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