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This is why our brain loves pictures

As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words". There is certainly a lot of truth to this: pictures help us learn, pictures attract attention, pictures explain difficult concepts, pictures inspire - but why? Why are pictures so effective? Why does the human brain love pictures so much?


The sense of sight is central

The sense of sight is generally considered the most important sense for our perception. However, a recent study shows that this is strongly culturally influenced and by no means universally valid. Nevertheless, our brain is designed to take in, transmit and process information via images.


Images are superior to text

Visualisation works from a human perspective because we respond to and process visual data better than any other type of data. In fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 per cent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.

Images are also better than text because reading is rather inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as individual images that we must first recognise. Thus, the appearance and order of the letters is important - to a certain extent. This is because our brain is quite good at reading even jumbled words. The first and last letters are most important, the order of the letters in between is secondary.

If you want to test for yourself how well your brain can do this, here is an example. However, this mental effort of translating letters into pictures takes some time. This is why image processing in the brain is faster than text processing.


A question of speed

In general, the transmission of information from the eye to the brain happens at an unimaginable speed. When we see an image, we analyse it within a very short time, give the image meaning and embed it in a context. The human brain is able to recognise a familiar object within 100 milliseconds. A study by the renowned MIT estimates that as little as 13 milliseconds are sufficient to recognise even unfamiliar images. Just let that roll off your tongue: Thirteen. Milli. Seconds.

Did you just blink in surprise? Well, your eyelid is a lot slower than your eye. On average, a blink takes between 100 and 400 milliseconds. Quite a while compared to the 13 milliseconds. Our brains are really fast!


Guessing concepts

When information is fed into the brain, we are able to make quick connections to information already stored in our memory. With these associations, we anchor concepts in our brain. Finding concepts - that's what our brain deals with all day. It tries to understand what we see. And that is quite demanding. Our brain has to do a lot of guesswork. Why is that? We move in a three-dimensional world. However, the light only falls on our retina in two dimensions. The step from two to three dimensions keeps our brain on its toes.


Giving the brain what it loves

Our brain loves images and is amazingly good at processing them. This can be actively used by enriching your own notes or communication with employees or customers with pictures. If you think that this is complicated and that you have to be able to draw, here's the good news: you don't have to. It's much easier than you think, and sketchnoting is easy to learn. Here you can find information about speakture workshops.