Images of nonverbal communication
What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are. Through experience and experimentation, we continually increase our understanding of the visual world and how we are influenced by it. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that 93% of communication is nonverbal. Studies find that the human brain deciphers image elements simultaneously, while language is decoded in a linear, sequential manner taking more time to process. Our minds react differently to visual stimuli.
Relatively speaking, in terms of communication, textual ubiquity is brand new. Thanks to millions of years of evolution, we are genetically wired to respond differently to visuals than text. For example, humans have an innate fondness for images of wide, open landscapes, which evoke an instant sense of well-being and contentment. Psychologists hypothesize that this almost universal response stems from the years our ancestors spent on the savannas in Africa.(1)
People think using pictures. John Berger, media theorist, writes in his book Ways of Seeing (Penguin Books, 1972), "Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak." Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and writer of several books and papers on visual literacy, said, "...unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). This is why, by the way, that we have 7-digit phone numbers. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched." Therefore, it is not surprising that it is much easier to show a circle than describe it.
When it comes to quick, clear communication, visuals trump text almost every time. Presented with the following textual and visual information, would you pet this dog?
The very same visual elements that we are indelibly drawn to and so quickly absorb not only communicate data more efficiently and effectively but also affect us emotionally. For instance, research shows that exposure to the color red can heighten our pulse and breathing rates. What is your reaction to the following picture?
How do you feel when you look at this picture? How quickly did you feel that way? Can you see how this image could be used to quickly elicit a strong emotional response and influence the viewer? If I were to textually describe this picture, your emotional reaction would not be as strong and it would take more time to digest the information. J. Francis Davis, an adult educator and media education specialist, captured it well when he said, "...in our culture pictures have become tools used to elicit specific and planned emotional reactions in the people who see them." Visuals are not only excellent communicators but also quickly affect us psychologically and physiologically.
Don Norman, author of Emotional Design, said in a Discover magazine article, "Beauty and the Beastly PC: The Graphics on Your Computer Screen Can Affect the Way You Feel—and...
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