pictures are worth a thousand words

Why a picture is worth a thousand words

New research shows that we can interpret the meaning of images much quicker than scientists had thought possible. A recent study shows that the brain can process visual information in the briefest of glimpses. So what does this tell us about the power of images and the power of our minds?

In your mind’s eye

The study involved showing everyday pictures, such as a smiling couple or a picnic, to participants in rapid succession. They found that people could still identify photos they saw for just 13 milliseconds. The equipment used for the test couldn’t present the graphics any faster, which just goes to show the human brain is more powerful than any computer.

Professor Mary Potter, who lead the research says: “The fact that you can [process visual data] at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long − trying to understand what we’re looking at.” The evidence also suggests that images continue to be processed after they have been seen.

Visual literacy 

Digital strategist and visual thinker, Mark Smiciklas says that pictures are “easy on the mind.” That’s because the brain processes visual data all at once, while it processes text in a linear way. Although virtually imperceptible, it takes greater mental effort to process words than pictures.

Graphics affect our emotions, engage our imagination and heighten our creative thinking. They increase comprehension, recollection and retention. Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. has written extensively on visual literacy, she says that: “…unless our words, concepts and ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”

Images and instinct

Pictures are not only powerful tools for conveying data, they can cut through the barrage of information we’re exposed to every day and provide light relief in a world of words. We can extract meaning from images at an incredible rate and it happens instinctively.

Crafted by expert psychologists, our colourful personality quizzes such as Who am I? are based around a series of images. This helps your answers to be more intuitive, resulting in more honest, accurate feedback about the real you. Fun, free and quick to do, our quizzes offer you an entertaining, useful path to self-discovery.

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