Visualization refers to our ability to create pictures in our heads based on what we read or hear. When words are consciously used to create mental images, understanding is accelerated. Consequently, those who make use of visualization have an advanced ability to understand, learn, and remember.
Picture It, Understand It!
Visualization is powerful! Physiology experts are of the opinion that a healthy individual’s visual system processes about 70% of their total sensory input. We also know that images play a vital role in memory retention – a phenomenon known as the Picture Superiority Effect. Research also shows that visualizing an action, even while your body is at rest, may stimulate the neural pathways in your brain just as though you were actually doing the action! It, therefore, comes as no surprise that mental imagery helps us to grasp abstract concepts and accelerates understanding. Visualization improves the speed of understanding, possibly because of the dual coding that takes place when a concept is not only perceived in the form of a text, but also as an image.
It is interesting to note that research into visual imagery suggests that people with Aphantasia (the inability to form images in the mind) experience difficulties with learning. However, to the vast majority of us, visualization is an ability that can indeed be utilized and even perfected through practice. The more this skill is deliberately practiced, the more visualization becomes automatic. Not only is understanding enhanced, but recall will also be boosted.
These simple visualization exercises expand one’s ability to imagine and boost creativity significantly. The ultimate result is highly effective visualization that may be used to understand complex concepts more quickly.
Picture Exercise: Carefully study a picture. Then close your eyes and recreate the picture in your mind. Try to remember colors, background, foreground, details. Look at the picture again. How does it compare to your visualization of it? Repeat this exercise until you get the hang of it.
Object Exercise: Take an object and examine all its details. Close your eyes and mentally see the object. Then, in your mind’s eye begin to rotate the object to visualize details from different angles. Also, see the environment where the object is. Zoom in (to focus on details) and zoom out (to observe its surroundings). Repeat this exercise with different objects, for optimal results.
Person Exercise: Choose a person you know well. Try to picture them in the mind’s eye, in different locations/situations. For each location/situation, picture the person with a different facial expression. Repeat the exercise a number of times, each time using a different person.
Place Exercise: Think of an environment and place yourself in it. Concentrate on the details in your chosen environment. To make the visualization even more real, allow all your senses to work to the fullest – concentrate not only on what is seen, but also on the sounds and even the smells in this particular environment. Repeat the exercise, but change the environment (or change the season) for a different experience.
Visualization must not remain a mere exercise – it needs to be put into practice in order to improve the speed of understanding. For example, here’s some great visualization techniques and best practices:
Use visualization for reading comprehension
Skillful writers use descriptive language designed to generate imagery in their readers’ imaginations – so this will aid visualization.
Visualization is a helpful skill in mathematics
For instance, fractions may be visualized by picturing a pizza cut into the said fractions / portions.
Understand history better using visualization techniques
Historical concepts presented as a list of names and dates will be better understood if visualized as timelines with historic events that have sufficient details to create rich pictures.
Visualization helps with abstract concepts
Abstract concepts studied in science can be simplified and made easy to understand by visualizing processes – see actual experiments in the mind’s eye to aid visualization.
Use language that triggers mental images
When required to write a piece of text, use language that generates images or symbols: first visualize and then write. This will clarify the concept in your own mind before you try to convey your concept to others.
Seven Top Tips to Master Visualization
- When reading poems, read aloud and slowly, thinking of each image created by its vivid, sensory-rich language.
- When reading information, read it sentence by sentence. Pause after each one and try visualization with your eyes closed, or while gazing out of the window.
- If you struggle to visualize a passage, reread it and look up any unfamiliar words.
- When dealing with a concept that is conveyed to a group, ask for volunteers to share their imagery with the group. Sharing visualization broadens understanding.
- When reading a text, try to visualize what is read, as if it is not mere text, but a film or documentary that you are watching.
- If you try to understand a difficult concept, it may be a good idea to slowly read the text aloud while you record your own voice. Then replay the recording and do the visualization as you listen, with your eyes closed.
- When attempting visualization, ask yourself the following question: “If I was going to make an animated movie based on this concept, what would the scenery look like and who would be the main characters?”
Mental imagery helps a person to grasp the most abstract of concepts. The more vivid the image formed in the mind’s eye, the greater the extent to which a concept is understood! The more specific or concrete you can make it, whether it is an abstract idea or complicated fact, the easier it will be for the mind to get a grip on it and hold on to it. And so, as we find ways to associate text with pictures, visualization improves the speed of understanding.