This post is a summary of the information in the 10th chapter of Brain Rules and the accompanying website, BrainRules.net, by John Medina
Eyesight is the body’s primary sensory input. In fact, half of the brain’s resources are devoted to processing vision. This should come as no surprise. Consider little children: their eyes light up when they see their mommies’ faces; their eyes widen when something catches their attention; and they learn to read by looking at picture books! What is surprising is that as they grow up, they are nearly forced to stop reading books with pictures.
Text is Inferior
Primitive man didn’t have a written language – or did he? Cave drawings, carvings, and hieroglyphs actually were a form of written language that happened to consist of pictures. In fact, the type in this post consists of hundreds of little pictures - letters, numbers, and punctuation. That is why the brain takes longer to process text - it has to recognize characteristics of each individual letter before it can decipher a word. Indeed, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
The human brain is incredible at remembering pictures. If information is presented orally, most people can recall about 10% of it three days later. If the information is presented visually, most people can recall 35%. That is more than 3 times the retention! The results of combining the two are even more impressive, however. When information is simultaneously presented orally and visually, recall shoots up to nearly 65%. (63% accuracy a year later. Nickerson, RS (1968). A note on long-term recognition memory for pictorial material. Psychon. Sci 11(2): 58)
As it evolved, the human brain learned to pay attention to movement. Almost anything threatening, edible or otherwise interesting could be spotted because it moved. The brain still pays attention to motion, which is why animated cartoons and movies are so entertaining.