Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Combining pictures with print or audio generally maximizes learning

I still can’t find any research in support of the claim that “humans process pictures 60 000 times faster than text.”


I have found several papers that support the statement that “combining pictures with print or audio generally [maximizes] learning”. This is a direct quote from Gwen C. Nugent’s article “Pictures, audio, and print: symbolic representation and effect on learning” published in Educational Technology Research and Development, Volume 30, Number 3 (1982), 163-174


This also appears to be supported in Malcolm L. Fleming’s article “On pictures in educational research” published in Instructional Science, Volume 8, Number 3 (1979), 235-251.


Dr. John Medina, in his book Brain Rules talks about the Pictorial Superiority Effect (page 233-234), he writes: “If information is presented orally, people remember about 10%, tested 72 hours after exposure. That figure goes up to 65% if you add a picture.”


There’s lots of stuff online about the Pictorial Superiority Effect, it turned out to be the key search term. or phrase, for me in my research. The learning gains are nowhere near 60 000 times greater but the use of images closely related to the text displayed and/or spoken consistently lead to measurable learning gains. Moving pictures, animations, seem to be even better than static images.


One paper that seems to be important vis a vis the Pictorial Superiority Effect is “Pictorial superiority effect.” by Nelson, Douglas L.; Reed, Valerie S.; Walling, John R. published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, Vol 2(5), Sep 1976, 523-528. You can buy it for $12 online here:


or just read the abstract for free.


Here’s a short video explaining the Pictorial Superiority Effect




"Working Inside the Black Box" can dramatically improve student learning

An excellent article by Black & Williams et al on practical strategies to implement Assessment For Learning in the classroom. Teachers implementing these ideas in their classes can dramatically improve learning for their students.


Dylan Williams recently said that after 14 years of implementing AfL across the UK the governmental implementation got it all wrong:


Visuals improve presentation effectiveness by 43% – research paper from 1986

It seems the often cited “According to research from 3M Corporation, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.” is false.

see: and

This paper appears to be the source of the claim that “Presentations using visual aids were found to be 43% more persuasive than unaided presentations.”

Important to note: they compared 35mm slides with overhead transparencies as 2 of 8 variables including the quality of the presenter herself. The nature of the presentations given (video lectures and the same video accompanied by manually operated visual supports) suggests to me that a live presenter using modern presentation tools (PowerPoint, Keynote or Interactive White Boards) might have different results.

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