Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

Use All Your Senses

  • Your brain has to process an amazing amount of sensory information at the same time. Reading is a relatively slow way to get information into your brain. At the heart of this rule is the notion that if you can stimulate more of your senses as you try to learn, it will be more effective. Multi sensory experiences are more elaborate, which is why they seem to work. For example, students learn better from animation and narration than animation and on-screen text. John also explores the roll of smell in the learning process. While this is not well understood, there is promising research that points in a direction that teachers can work with.

Vision Rules

  • Vision trumps all other senses and takes up about half of your brain’s resources. The many aspects of vision such as motion, shape, color, and shadow are processed separately and assembled in your visual cortex. Some of what you see is actually made up by your brain with the help of prior experience. Were this not the case, you would always see two dark spots as there are no receptors in the middle of your eye where the optic nerve enters your brain. While what you see is based on reality, not everything you think you see is real.
  • This has a great deal of impact on learning. The more visual the input, the more likely it is to be recognized and remembered. Text and oral presentations are not just less efficient than pictures for retaining certain types of information, they are way less efficient. Vision can even take over other senses. One experiment showed that wine experts thought that white wine containing red food color was actually red wine. Teachers, therefore, need to use pictures, videos, and animations when possible, and ditch their text heavy PowerPoint slides.
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