1. Seeing, Visualizing and Appreciating DVL

To understand and move through the world, every one of us makes sense of our environment through our perceptions — our five main senses — then through our interpretation and validation of those sense perceptions. We begin to build our language of perceptions and meanings from birth, (if not earlier), like at the time we first begin to see smiles on the faces of our parents or hear their nurturing and soothing sounds – or, of course, the opposite.

Many brain researchers have estimated as much as 75% of all we learn in life comes through our sense of sight — three times the combined influence of our hearing, taste, and sense of smell. The science supporting this finding is that over 50% of the brain’s total activity is devoted to visual processing, which also requires over half the brain’s energy, and thus oxygen usage. 

This makes sense given our pre-historic (“stone-age”) evolutionary development prior to 4,000 years ago, prior to agriculture, settlement, and civilization of any kind. In those days, keen vision and reflex-fast interpretation meant survival or death. Threats to our lives as well as our food supply and reproductive opportunities were apprehended by sight or oral communication. Everything we did and saw was in a physical situations whose patterns we had to immediately recognize and act on correctly — or we’d likely perish. Written words did not exist — though pictures on caves did.

If you’re a sighted person, then your dominant sense — by far — is visual perception. This has been demonstrated through extensive research in learning and memory. Vision is probably the best single tool we have for learning anything, as researchers have known for more than 100 years. Put another way, the more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized-and recalled. This recognition even has its own name: the Pictorial Superiority Effect, or PSE – which applies in particular to the comparative power (memorability) of pictures over words. 

Yet little to any of this understanding is taught in public schools. Instead of receiving formal training in visual thinking as a valued set of skills that might include our vision and interpretation strategies, pattern recognition, memory development, or our ability to imagine, visualize, draw, compare, etc., western education tends to relegate visual skills to people we call “creative” or “artistic”. The far more dominant form of thinking and communicating in western education is with verbal and written language that barely recognizes visual literacy or skill.

One result of this in many businesses today is the case one could make for the large number of meetings that seem to waste peoples’ time and contribute to chronic disengagement in the workplace. Let’s face it, meetings are often a breeding ground of disengagement — and one reason is an over-reliance on words that predictably deactivates our minds and/or our emotions.

That common-sense expression: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” suggests that we use pictures whenever possible. Yet how many of us would bother to pause in the middle of conversation to find and share a visual image to clarify a point rather than defaulting to a purely verbal explanation? Are we intentionally ignoring how our own brains work most efficiently? One major aim of our exploration, therefore, is to eliminate hurdles to greater visual thinking and communicating, and thus increase our overall clarity, effectiveness, and productivity.

Thanks for staying tuned, we’re just getting started, and you’re in for some accelerated learning.