Serial Notes are dead: The Pictoral Superiority Effect

Hey everybody!

I’m using this post to get straight into visual learning, because (even though we have a ton of other stuff to show you that pre-empts this) it’s one of the central things I taught people when I was tutoring, and memorizing is one of the biggest challenges I found students face when studying.


So basically here’s what I’ll be telling you about today:

- Visual learning is far superior to any other method of learning

- Our brain has a virtually unlimited storage capacity for images

- Visual recall is faster than any other form of learning

- What does this mean for study?

Then in the next post I will actually show you how to make visual notes if you don’t already know how (It was all too much to fit into one).


So…the big idea of today is that everybody learns and remembers best visually. I know you’ve heard all that stuff like people are auditory/ kinesthetic/visual and so forth, but really, studies show now that EVERYBODY remembers best visually. This is HUGE, especially for people who struggle to memorise pages and pages of words (which is most of us), and people who are dyslexic. The ease at which it can be done will astound you. It definitely astounded me.


The fact is, most of us don’t realize what our brain and memory are capable of. Students often get so overwhelmed by a sheer amount of material they are expected to remember that they don’t even know how or where to begin. This is mainly because they haven’t been taught a structured method of memorizing. When I’ve taught students how to remember visually they cant get over the difference it makes in their ability to remember information. You can literally memorise entire lectures word for word if you really want to.


The ‘Pictorial Superiority Effect’

When I studied psychology back in my first year out of high school, we learnt about a study by Ralph Haber done in the United States which involved showing 2560 images, one after the other, to a large group of people and then testing their recognition after 7 days. The recall rate was measured at NINETY PERCENT. He then did the same study, but this time showed the images with less than one second between them. The recall rate was still 85-95 percent! Then, yet another similar study that used ‘vivid’ or memorable images demonstrated a 99.99% recognition rate!


What does this mean for us? Your brain has a phenomenal ability to recall images! Why?Pictures are far more evocative than words. They stimulate a huge range of cortical skills and trigger a massive number of associations, which results in much more effective recall.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina explains that text and auditory presentation of information is far less efficient than visual presentation: In testing, only 10% of Oral information is recalled 72 hours after exposure, whereas recall is 65% if a picture is included!


Unlock your unlimited storage capacity: Visual memory is MASSIVE

In comparison to auditory/written learning, your ability to remember images is virtually limitless. The Canadian researcher responsible for the ‘vivid’ image recall experiment mentioned above, demonstrated the brain’s capacity to remember not just 2500 images, but 10,000. It is now estimated that if you were shown over a million images in a similar fashion, the recall rate would be the same!

You can literally memorize entire chapters and lectures word-for-word using visual learning techniques.


Recall of images is much FASTER

When you learn via words/auditory techniques, such as mnemonics and linear notes, your brain must ‘sort’ through it in order before you find the information you need. Imagine a cassette tape that you need to rewind/fast forward through everything to get to the part you want. This is how you sort through these types of memories.

With visual learning you can ‘jump’ straight to part you want because it is set out visually in your memory. It’s like using a menu screen on a DVD rather than a cassette.

Let me show you. Lets say I asked you to tell me the middle letter of the word HIPPOPOTAMUS. If you haven’t learnt it visually you would most likely need to spell it out letter for letter in your head before arriving at the middle letter. Harder still, what if I asked you to spell it backwards? Very tricky to do if you’re trying to sound it out in a serial fashion. Now try this: Visualise the word HIPPOPOTAMUS in your head as an image. Picture the entire word with your eyes closed, making it big and bold. Got it? Now spell it forward, visualizing the whole word. Then spell it backward. It’s a lot easier visually isn’t it? This is because you can see the entire word as an image and your brain doesn’t have to sort through it letter by letter (which is what it does when you memorise in a serial, or linear fashion.) Now I’m not suggesting that we should all re-learn to spell using visual memory, but this is a good demonstration of how sorting through visual memories is much more efficient.


So what have we got from this so far?

Visual memory…

1. Is longer lasting

2. Has a (virtually) unlimited capacity

3. allows for faster recall


What can you do straight away:

Start making your notes for visually stimulating and differentiated. Use Colour, shape, structure it in a brainstorm or flowchart (which is more in line with how your brain functions, but that’s for another post J)

I hope this was helpful, if there is anything you want me to explain more pelase let me know by commenting below!

First ever post!

Hey everybody! Welcome to the first ever blog post of Student Roadmaps! I’m Ellie Stockley, founder of and I’m very proud to launch a very unique type of study guide.

Student Roadmaps is a book I started writing earlier this year to give students an easy to apply system of studying any subject, whether they are in high school or university. It has transpired from a combination of a great deal of experience with learning and academia and a driving passion for helping others learn how to learn.

From Kindergarten to University we have as ton of information presented to us, but it’s missing a vital element- at no time do we truly learn how to organize and assimilate it.

That is, we are never actively taught how to study.

It’s something our teachers seems to assume we’ve learnt somewhere already or just picked up a long the way.

Sure, we may get a few workshops on ‘study skills’ thrown in here and there but most of them involve learning how to ‘skim read’, highlight ‘key words’ and make boring dot point notes. Not exactly revolutionary stuff, and definitely not a step by step easy to apply system by any means.

Throughout educational institutions around the world there is a distinct lack of knowledge on how to learn effectively.

We are now in 2011 and still there are very few quality resources available that really teach students how to learn and I am determined to change that.

In a nutshell: Student Roadmaps will teach you how to study.

So what’s this blog all about? Because the book ‘Student RoadMap’ is still in it’s final stages, I decided to start this blog so I could start sharing with you some of the ideas and information straight away, and also begin to build the community.

I will be sharing you with what will hopefully be directly applicable guidance on how to take all that info that is piled onto you and HOW to actually organize it, make summaries, and memorize it. I’ll also be interviewing a ton of highly successful students that we’re fortunate enough to have access to and lots of other cool stuff along the way.

I’m going to keep it very laid back and interesting and really try and give you something you haven’t seen before in more traditional educational resources.

I’m really excited about this. I think we have great talent here to give you really quality content and I think we have something really special happening here.

On that note, this is all really for you, and we really want you guys to drive it -  so make sure you get involved, comment below and tell us what you want to hear about, and most importantly, share it - with your friends and classmates who are struggling, or anyone else who could benefit from this information.


Speak very soon,

X Ellie