“A picture is worth a thousand words”

the-iconic-photo-of-tank-man-the-unknown-rebel-who-stood-in-front-of-a-column-of-chinese-tanks-in-an-act-of-defiance-following-the-tiananmen-square-protests-of-1989

We all know these iconic pictures. Even without showing the actual picture here, you immediately know which pitcure belongs to the following, loosely chosen descriptions like ‘Vietnamese napalm girl‘, ‘The Beatles at Abbey Road‘ or ‘Raising of the flag at Iwo Jima‘. I bet you had at least one picture right and could tell me what it is about, even if you don’t know exactly which sides fought each other in the Vietnam War or like the Beatles.

Well chosen pictures, statistics, maps, pie charts, infographics often say more than hundreds of words about the same subject matter. Why? Because pictures in general are remembered better than words, simply because of the way our brains function. Our brains just likes and remembers pictures more easily than words. Canadian emeritus professor Paivio called it the ‘Picture Superiority Effect’. The effect refers to the notion that concepts that are learned by viewing pictures are more easily and frequently recalled than are concepts that are learned by viewing their written word form counterparts. The explanation for the picture superiority effect is still unknownl, as is much of how our brains function by the way…

Because research and our own experiences show that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, instructional designers should be aware of this effect when designing for example e-learning courses or job aids. If chosen well, pictures and other visual elements can really enhance the quality and effect of learning activities.

 

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