Visual, auditory or kinesthetic learning profiles, i.e. based on physical or emotional sensations, involve different neural processes. Only by recalling new knowledge (stored in short-term memory), whether visual or auditory sensory, can it enter long-term memory. According to Edgar Dale, researcher and professor in education, after 2 weeks, we retain :
- 10% of what we read,
- 20% of what we hear,
- 30% of what we saw,
- 50% of what was seen and heard or demonstrated,
- 70% by having participated in a discussion or given a lecture,
- 90% by having experienced or lived a situation.
A point on the different types of memory
There are 3 types of memory for the brain : visual memory, auditory memory and kinesthetic memory. First of all, let’s briefly define these different types of memory
What is visual memory ?
Visual memory is the brain’s ability to record images, shapes and colors. It allows us to remember the appearance of things and people and is involved in the recognition of shapes and objects. Visual memory also allows us to find our bearings in space, to perceive depth and distance.
What is auditory memory ?
Auditory memory is the brain’s ability to record sounds and noises. It plays an important role in communication and speech comprehension, in the recognition of sounds and noises. It is also involved in remembering melodies and songs.
What is kinesthetic memory ?
Kinesthetic memory is the brain’s ability to record movements and sensations. It allows us to assimilate information about body movements and associated sensations. Kinesthetic memory is used in the realization of gestures and movements, as well as for learning new motor skills. It is also involved in the coordination and planning of movements as well as in the perception of body position and movement in space.
A few words about the brain
Our brain is fascinating. In 2013, German and Japanese researchers attempted to model brain activity by trying to replicate one minute of brain activity using one of the most powerful supercomputers available (4th most powerful machine in the world at the time, with over 82,000 processors). It took the machine 40 minutes to simulate 1 second of brain activity in real time !
The brain represents 2 to 3% of our total mass and 1/5 of our daily energy needs. It integrates :
- Hundreds of billions of nerve cells (neurons) ;
- Innumerable cerebral connections that communicate with each other (the connectome) ;
- Neurotransmitters, which emit signals to inhibit or briefly excite electrical activity between neurons, modifying the flow of information in the cranium.
Our brain receives, every second, an immense amount of information, through the five senses: these are stimuli. In order to function optimally, our brain cannot retain all this information, so it sorts it out and forgets most of it. Recent studies, whose results are widely used in neuromarketing, define the different stages of memory :
- Sensory memory,
- Working memory,
- Short-term memory,
- Long-term memory.
Sensory information stored in the primary areas of the brain is extremely ephemeral. Visual memory lasts only a quarter of a second, auditory sensory memory a little over two seconds at most. If the stimulus is deemed insignificant (such as the second hands of a clock in your field of vision), it will be erased from your memory immediately. If, on the other hand, the information is to be retained for a longer period of time, the brain will change its electrical connections (creating what is called a memory trace), so that the information is transferred to the working memory. Thus, the information passes into the secondary areas, where it is combined, stored and processed.
Working memory allows us to retain information long enough for it to be processed; when it is processed, it is erased. For example, when you take dictation, you retain the last three words you say long enough to write them down, and then you forget them as soon as they are written. In the same way as above, if the information needs to be retained for a longer period of time, then it goes into short-term memory.
Short-term memory allows you to retain information for several hours before it is erased. For example, you know in the morning that you have to pick up your children from school this evening : the information is stored in your brain all day before being erased as soon as the action (picking up your children from school) has been completed.
If the stimulus is strong enough or repeated enough, or if it is linked to a strong emotion, then this information goes into long-term memory. Stimuli linked to a strong emotion more easily form an “imprint” and are therefore more easily retained in memory. For example, people old enough to remember the September 11, 2001 attacks certainly remember where they were when they learned that this event was taking place. Long-term memory can last a lifetime.
How can we improve our memory ?
If we want, as much as possible, to keep in memory the information received, it is necessary to proceed to a reactivation, the consolidation of information depending, indeed, on two elements :
Concerning the time element, the ideal reactivation times are : 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months and 4 months.
The technique can consist in self-evaluating one’s knowledge, linking the various pieces of knowledge (old and new), or even elaborating what has just been learned.
Memory and will
Memory is not linked to willpower. Certain factors influence it :
- Rest or fatigue,
- Relaxation or stress,
- Lifestyle, etc.
How do we know if our memory is visual or auditory ?
In a real-life situation, subjects adapt to the types of information available, for example visual if they are looking at a painting, auditory if they are listening to a piece of music. Experiments on learning, which have tried to evaluate the hypothesis of preferential visual or auditory profiles, have shown that better performance is not obtained when the type of document is adapted according to the “supposed” profile of the subject.
Which memory is used to retrieve memorized information ?
There are three ways to retrieve information from memory :
- Either the recall is immediate,
- Or it is done by recognition of information among others,
- Or it is “indexed”. We then rely on clues to bring up this information stored in memory, either by relying on visual or auditory clues. But in no case do these cues have any relation to the mode of memory acquisition (auditory or visual). It is an abstract reconstruction that starts from our memory.
Can we improve a student’s memory ?
Many teachers still believe in the myth of visual, auditory or kinesthetic learning profiles. In fact, we now know that this is not the case and these theories of memorization, based on this or that learning profile, have been abandoned. Joint visual and auditory stimulation seems to be more effective. But above all, it is important to stabilize memorization through repetition. To improve learning, it is necessary to revise regularly. What matters most for the neural networks linked to learning to last over time is the repetition of information. This is not surprising. There is no mystery: to learn and memorize, you have to practice constantly !
The preferential visual or auditory memorization is therefore a myth !
Bibliographical references :
• Observatoire de la santé visuelle et auditive – Jean-François Camps, 17/11/2021
• Cerveau et apprentissage : si la formation devenait plus percutante ? – Akto
• Psycho Marketing, méthode basée sur la science et l’expérience – Stefan Lendi, Gereso
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