Sitting here thinking about this hook, my long term memory kicks in. I was thinking about the importance of senses and wondering where vision fell on the spectrum for me. It took me back to my freshman year at the University of North Texas (née North Texas State University) where apparently, I walked around asking my friends this question: “If something drastic happened to you and you could only hang on to one sense, what sense would it be and why?” I even think I had a notebook and wrote this stuff down. Again…this is just a memory that surfaced out of the blue, so I’m sure my brain is filling in some gaps, and obviously there are still a few out there, but I do remember going around and asking it and writing it down. This might explain my current practice of “Answer me this” Thursdays where I post a random question on Twitter and Facebook for my friends to answer. We are all amazing and unique individuals, aren’t we?

Anyway, my answer was vision. Though I would have a raging battle over maybe whether it would be smell or touch. As you might be able to tell from the introductory paragraph on on “Sensory Integration,” the combination of those three can be quite powerful. And now that I think about it, if I didn’t have my hearing, I would never have had the joy of Sting or the Police, so I may have to rethink this answer.

Anyway, I’m quite rambling today. This morning we are going to talk about Chapter 10 of Brain Rules, “Vision.”

Chapter 10 “Brain Rules”

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses

Medina starts out the chapter with a funny tale of fancy schmancy wine tasters, who–when given white wine with red food coloring–described the wines in the terminology of red wines. In other words, they saw red wine, and in their mind they also tasted red wine. Alas, they had been fooled. Which proved Medina’s point that “we see with our brains.” And from the wine-tasting example, what we see isn’t fact all the time…it is an opinion of what our brain thinks is out there. The visual process is by no means simple. In fact, what goes into our optic nerve in our brain streams/parses out to the thalamus and then to the visual cortex. All the threads of information are scattered all over the brain, and “when they are the most fragmented,” they recombine into ventral (object and color information) and dorsal (location and movement information) streams to provide you with what you see. Or think you see. (I hope I am explaining this all accurately…)

The dog looks different with your right eye open/left eye closed compared to the left eye open/right eye closed

The dog looks different with your right eye open/left eye closed compared to the left eye open/right eye closed

If you think about it, when you look at something, you are really seeing two things. Stare at the dog in front of you. Close your left eye. You see the dog from your right eye. Now open your left eye and close your right eye. Your view of the dog has changed. What you see is a combined vision of the two. Additionally, there are blind spots out there, but you don’t see them. Your brain fills them in. Your brain is not a camera. It is a dynamic tool that assembles images all around you in a 3D framework, even though–in actuality–we are seeing it in a 2D frame of mind. When it compiles its infomation, not only does it use what you are seeing, but previous experiences as well. Visual assembly requires a lot of energy!

Which goes back to how it trumps all other senses. Vision is “a dictorial emprorer” says Medina. It can convince you of things that don’t really exist. Have you ever looked at a photo and recognize the woman as distant old Aunt Mary? Although any other time, you really don’t know who Aunt Mary is… It’s great for working memory. It provides umph for visual short term memory. If you see something, even fleetingly, odds are that you will remember it and it will find its way into long-term memory. It is simply the “best single tool we have for learning anything.”

Medina moves on to talk about the science of the Pictorial Superiority Effect (PSE), which basically states that concepts are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented as pictures rather than words. Text and oral presentations are highly inefficient. Reading is inefficient. Vision is fast, effective, and powerful.

“Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap” – George Bernard Shaw

Medina has a lot of ideas to engage with visuals. And he is preaching to the choir here. Some suggestions he has are as follows:

  • Teachers should learn WHY pictures grab attention. By understanding the process and the psychology behind it, pictures can be leveraged quite heavily in instruction.
  • Teachers should use computer animations .
  • They should test and use the power of images.
  • We should communicate more with pictures than words.
  • We should ditch the PowerPoints that have an average of 40 words per slide.

On a side note, I have to stand up for PowerPoint. It does get a bad rap. A friend of mine, Jane Bozarth, wrote a wonderful book several years ago “Better than Bullet Points” about leveraging PowerPoints in great ways. If used appropriately, PowerPoint can be a very effective tool. Additionally, more tools are popping up that make it easier to show and tell a story, such as Haiku Deck.

What do YOU use to tell a story? How do you use pictures? Do you really believe a picture can be worth a thousand words?

Up next, I’m moving onto a different book (Choose Yourself) and different ponderings until I can recall the Brain Rules book from the PSU Libraries. (Reader, be warned!) In the meantime, have a great weekend! 🙂


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