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Top 5 incorrect “facts” about visual learning.

As Silver Lining Animation has started to explore the use of animation in training and eLearning, we dove headfirst into the world of visual learning to ensure our animations are as effective as possible! It was here that we stumbled across a well of misinformation—”facts” shared by supposedly reputable sources that a moderate amount of digging revealed to be completely false. So I present to you..

5 Myths about Visual Learning

65% of people are visual learners

You’ve probably seen this one bandied about. This is by far the most common factoid I saw being used by a range of sources I believed to be reputable. As I went down the rabbit hole to see if this was true or not, I found this article (“65 percent of people are visual learners” is lazy journalism). This not only made me question other statistics I thought I was familiar with, but it also inspired me to start this blog. 

Man highlighting work on a messy desk

I did come across some potential origins of the 65% claim. This study compares the information retention of different teaching methods after 3 days. Visual and verbal content has a 65% recall rate, compared to written content at 10%–20% and verbal only, which came in at only 10%. So it could be a case of information like this being warped as it passes from one person to another. Honestly though we have no idea, and we were a little bit shocked at how prolific this factoid seemed to be.

Being a visual learner means you learn best by seeing

This second point comes more from a miscommunication than anything else. If you prefer to learn through visuals, wouldn’t that mean that you are great at remembering everything you read? Sadly, the written word is not a learning preference that falls under the visual learning banner. If cramming for an exam, just reading will not reach the 65% retention rate of true visual methods, and most of the information will be forgotten after a few days. In addition to retaining information, true visual learning will also help you process information more quickly and effectively. See the image below as an example.

Example image

Your preferred learning style is the only way you can retain information long term.

When you give this one a little bit of thought, it seems obvious. We are able to learn and retain information presented to us in almost any form. Being a visual learner is simply a preference, not a requirement. Most studies show that the best results come from effectively combining multiple learning styles. Visual and verbal is an extremely effective combination, with one study showing a X6 retention rate increase when compared to information presented solely verbally or in writing. So while you will be able to process and retain information more effectively when it is presented in a preferred form, other ways can work too.

Left Brain Dominant vs Right Brain Dominant

Inner workings of the brain

Most of you will have heard this one before: the idea that if your left brain is dominant, you are more analytical, and if your right brain is dominant, you’re more creative. The trouble is, as far as I could find, there isn’t much to really support this idea. Going past the lack of support, the University of Utah actively debunked the myth with an analysis of more than 1,000 brains.

Any visuals are better than no visuals

Wires plugged into a device

Adding poor visuals can have the opposite effect of the one you desire and end up muddying the waters of the points you are trying to make. It’s always best to consult an expert or work with a designer to make sure the work you are doing is well complemented and improved by its accompanying visuals (I happen to know a great animation studio that specialises in this).

What should we take from this?

I found it amazing how many “sources” are just other blogs repeating the claims of older articles in an almost never-ending loop. It took me a fair amount of time to find out the truth behind these claims, and I’m sure there’s still more to be uncovered. We place a lot of importance on research at Silver Lining, and this once again highlighted the importance of finding the real truth.

Don’t let these myths be a deterrent! Visual learning is an incredibly powerful tool, and any eLearning or training solutions are missing a trick without it! If you want to see how it can work for you, get in touch with us for a chat.

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