31 May 2015

Quick Guide To The Picture Superiority Effect

Do you know that you are more likely to remember concepts when they are presented to you as pictures rather than as words? This is the Picture Superiority Effect, which has been proven true by several experiments. 
Here's a YouTube video that does a great job at explaining this concept in 30 seconds.
Repeat with me: people remember pictures better than words. [Tweet this]

People remember pictures 
better than words.

Dr. John Medina—molecular biologist and research consultant— wrote Brain Rules, where he shared what scientists know about how our brains work. One of the things they know for sure is that “based on research into the Picture Superiority Effect, when we read text alone, we are likely to remember only 10 percent of the information 3 days later. If that information is presented to us as text combined with a relevant image, we are likely to remember 65 percent of the information 3 days later.”
There are many fields where the Picture Superiority Effect is used. Here are a few examples:
  • Marketing communications: highly visual billboards, posters and brochures get more attention
  • Advertising: ads with pictures get more business
  • Social media: posts with images get more likes and re-shares
As Randy Krum pointed out in his blog Cool Infographics, this ad campaign from Verizon is a perfect example of the Picture Superiority Effect in action. 
This map shows Verizon’s network coverage area compared to that of their competitors. Three days after seeing it, what do you think are you more likely to remember, the words or the maps? 
What I struggle to understand is why individuals and companies do use the Picture Superiority Effect in their marketing communications, advertising, and social media activities and but not in their presentations. Is a customer presentation less important than a Facebook post?
Instead of designing 40-word slides nobody will remember, use picture superiority to make your presentations more memorable. [Tweet this] A short message supported by a quality image is way more powerful than a full paragraph on a slide. 
According to Dr. John Medina, “the brain does not pay attention to boring things”. Because a 40-word slide is indeed a boring thing, then the brain does not pay attention to 40-word slides. 

“The brain does not pay attention 
to boring things.” — Dr. John Medina 

Two more points:
  • For the Picture Superiority Effect to work, the images must be relevant to the content. You can’t assume that any image would work. Make it relevant!
  • Picture superiority applies to any visual display, not just images. Therefore, people are also more likely to remember concepts when they are presented to them as charts and graphs rather than as words. 
 Not convinced yet? Then take this:
“Use the picture superiority effect to improve the recognition and recall of key information. Use pictures and words together, and ensure that they reinforce the same information for optimal effect.”
— Universal Principles of Design (page 152)
Make it visual!

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