Visual learners are very good at learning, processing and remembering information that is presented visually. Their brains comprehend images faster than sounds and they can absorb complex visual information in a matter of seconds. Visual learners can also solve problems faster if they are presented visually.
But how does being a visual learner impact your life? This guide to visual learning will explain how visual learners are different to other types of learners. We’ll identify which tasks visual learners excel at and which ones are more difficult. Finally, we’ll share the careers that visual learners are more likely to succeed at. Let’s get started!
How visual learners are different to other types of learners
Learning theorists have discovered that people differ in the way they learn, process, comprehend, and recall information. They have developed categories to classify the different kinds of learners — Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinaesthetic Learners.
When a person learns in a way that suits their specific learning style, they will notice improved comprehension and enjoyment. They will also find it easier to solve problems and develop new ideas when using their preferred learning style.
By identifying your own learning style, you can learn more efficiently, solve complex problems, and remember more information. Here is a short overview of what it means to be a visual learner and how it differs to other types of learning.
Visual learners are the most common type of learner, making up approximately 65% of the population. They prefer to see what they are learning and may have difficulty following spoken instructions or learning from a spoken lecture.
The brains of visual learners excel at connecting ideas and information in all visual forms. They can take the data from a map or diagram, memorise it quickly, then process the information it contains. Analytic visual learners tend to prefer the written word to illustrations, while global visual learners prefer illustrations.
You may be a visual learner if you:
• Prefer to read instead of listen
• Have trouble remembering the things that people tell you
• Find it easier to remember information if it is written down
• Are very good with maps and spatial awareness
• Sometimes incorporate diagrams into your notes to help you remember things
• Spell well and have a strong vocabulary
• Speak fast
• Prefer to work alone because you can avoid auditory distractions
• Prefer an uncluttered workspace, where you can see all of your tools
Strengths of visual learners
Visual learners can remember up to 75% of the information they see. They do particularly well when working with diagrams, graphs, charts, blackboard illustrations, books and magazines. When a visual learner views a powerpoint presentation that incorporates diagrams and charts, they will remember most of the information immediately — a significant advantage for business people and students!
Visual learners tend to be organised and make carefully crafted notes. They can use colourful sticky notes and fluorescent markers to quickly memorise important information. Visual learners are also very good at learning from flashcards.
How are auditory learners different from visual learners?
As the name suggests, auditory learners prefer to listen to new information rather than look at it. Auditory learners are very good at remembering what people say to them — which is something that visual learners can struggle with.
Auditory learners can repeat information out loud to memorise it, an approach that is ineffective for most visual learners. Auditory learners also excel at the sharing and memorising of information via discussions, which most visual learners struggle with.
If a visual learner struggles to understand an idea, they will look for reading material or diagrams to explain it. An auditory learner would prefer to ask questions instead. Auditory learners can easily be distracted by noise, while visual learners can usually ignore it and remain focussed on their work.
How are kinaesthetic learners different from visual learners?
Kinaesthetic learners like to get their hands dirty! They learn new things most effectively when they are physically active — moving and touching objects. While a visual learner relies on images and text to learn or process information, a kinaesthetic learner relies on physical activity.
Kinaesthetic learners tend to struggle to learn from pictures, diagrams or text. Because they are compelled to move while learning, they often fidget while reading a book or listening to a person talking. A visual learner would prefer to be still and fully focussed on their work. A kinaesthetic learner can understand a complex process even if they only perform it once, while a visual learner might have to repeat the process numerous times.
The tasks that visual learners find easy
Some of the tasks that visual learners excel at include:
• Performing research
Visual learners are very good at absorbing information from books, magazines, images, graphs and other visual material. This makes them highly effective when performing research.
• Remembering facts and figures
A visual learner can isolate facts and figures from written material very easily. This helps them when studying for tests or working in fields that require extensive knowledge.
• Making graphs and charts
Visual learners tend to be highly skilled at making charts, graphs, and other visual displays.
• Organising things
Visual learners find it very easy to organise objects and information into visual categories.
• Understanding body language and facial expressions
Visual learners can pick up on a person’s non-verbal cues very quickly.
Visual learners are skilled at reading maps and navigating.
The tasks that visual learners find difficult
The kinds of tasks that visual learners may struggle with include:
• Listening to lectures or speeches
A visual learner can become distracted if forced to listen to a long speech or lecture. They won’t absorb the information contained within the presentation as well as other people.
• Learning languages
Visual learners can struggle to learn a new language unless there are images present in the learning materials.
• Working in noisy environments
Visual learners prefer quiet working environments where they can focus on visual aspects of the material they are using.
• Remembering names
It can be very difficult for a visual learner to remember somebody’s name, particularly if they are talking to them over the phone.
• Listening to oral instructions
It can be difficult for a visual learner to perform a task if they have only received verbal instructions. They usually require a person to perform a demonstration for them.
How visual learners should adapt their communications with other people
It is important to understand that your preferred learning style affects how you well you communicate and collaborate with others — particularly if they have a different learning style. If you are communicating with a visual learner try the following techniques:
• Incorporate whiteboards into business meetings or study groups, so you can communicate visually
• Use emails to communicate
• Use Mind Mapping when working with other people on a project. Mind mapping tools are perfect for visual learners because they integrate images and colours.
• Use powerpoint presentations with images
• Find pictures, charts, graphs, and infographics that display the information you want to share
• Share written notes
If you are communicating with a person who is an auditory learner:
• Tell them about the ideas that you have in face-to-face meetings
• Use videos and audio recordings to share information
• Ask them if they have any questions and respond verbally
• Use the phone to communicate
• Speak clearly and precisely
• When speaking, repeat or emphasise the most important concepts
• Send them recordings of any group meetings
If you are communicating with a person who is a kinaesthetic learner:
• Have practical demonstrations which are hands-on
• Present information in an environment where people are free to move around
• Encourage the other person to take their own notes instead of giving them printed material
• Incorporate multimedia sources
• Use activities that involve drawing, touching, or building
Making the most of your learning potential
Here are a few useful techniques that help visual learners absorb and process new information.
Write down the things you want to remember
Making your own notes is one of the most effective ways for a visual learner to retain information. Always bring a pen and paper or a laptop to meetings so you can make notes of important information. You can also take photos of important information to be reviewed later on.
Use colours to identify important information
Use highlighters and coloured post-it notes to tag information that is particularly important.
Convert information into charts, posters, graphs and other visual formats
If you are dealing with a complex subject or a lot of data, format the information in a way that you can learn it. Use graphs, images, diagrams and other visual representations.
Look at the person who is talking to you
You will find it much easier to understand the information a person is conveying if you can see their face and watch their body language. If you are in a classroom or workplace, sit near the front of the room so you can clearly see the speakers.
Use mind maps and diagrams to track projects
Create visual representations of projects, so you can quickly determine what is going on.
Make lists and use flashcards
If you are a visual learner start writing lists, you will find them invaluable. Use flashcards if you are attempting to remember specific facts or studying for a test.
What types of careers are ideal for visual learners?
Visual learners have many exciting career prospects available to them. Here are just a few:
it only makes sense that a visual learner would excel at graphic design. That’s because a visual learner has excellent spatial awareness and can evaluate images very quickly. They can identify minute differences in designs and make pixel-perfect changes.
Architects spend many hours creating and reviewing architectural drawings. Visual learners have the attention-to-detail that is required to create precise architectural plans.
A visual learner’s ability to memorise printed information makes them ideal candidates for the medical profession. Their visual skills help them diagnose patients, read scans, and quickly evaluate medical charts. Visual learners can also do well as medical lab technicians.
Interior designer or decorator
A visual learner’s ability to compare and contrast visual materials helps to make them excellent designers or decorators.
An engineer uses complex schematics and plans when making their calculations. A visual learner can absorb the information on these documents quickly and accurately.
A photographer must be able to frame shots and assess the composition of shots in a split second. A visual learner can quickly identify if a photo is well framed and worth taking. They can also quickly analyse hundreds of photographs, identifying the best shots.
Journalist, writer or editor
A visual learner’s skill with the written word helps them succeed in any profession involving language. They can scan a page of text very quickly and remember the contents of each page accurately.