Visual Memory And How It May Be Improved

Updated December 7, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Visual Memory Can Affect How We Learn And Live.

Visual memory typically refers to the ability to recall images or form mental images of something seen previously. Both short-term and long-term visual memory are often used in daily life, and this type of memory is often employed when reading, writing, and spelling. You may enhance your visual memory through activities like I Spy, matching cards, identifying differences between photos, and responding to questions that require visual memory to answer. Online therapy may be another helpful tool for addressing memory issues. 

What Is Visual Memory?

The term visual memory generally refers to the recollection of something we've seen, such as visual patterns, words, letters, numbers, or any type of visual stimuli. It can be a common way to learn and recall information. There are typically thought to be two types of visual memory:

  • Short-term visual memory – You’re usually using short-term visual memory when remembering something you saw recently. Short-term memory is often used in our day-to-day lives. For example, an artist may see an object in their environment and immediately sketch it, or we can copy down text that we read. After viewing a password, we may remember it until we can write it down. Most of us take in quite a bit of visual information in our daily lives, so most of our short-term memory is just that: short-term. It typically disappears quickly if the information has no use to us. However, if exposure is repeated enough times, or if the memory has an emotion attached to it, it can become long-term.

  • Long-term visual memory - Generally, long-term visual memory helps you recall something from your past. Memories with strong emotional associations are typically most likely to stay in your mind. For instance, you may have some childhood memories you can recall vividly. Long-term memories can also be created due to repeated sightings. When you repeatedly drive to a location, you may eventually learn the route without using GPS or any other aid due to long-term visual memory.

Visual memory can be important in the world of learning. As much as 80 percent of what we learn is visual. Below are a few examples of how we may learn visually.

Reading And Writing

As we learn to read, we generally remember images of the words we see. You might remember learning “sight words” when you were young. Then, as we learn to write, we typically recall the appearance of each letter. Similarly, when we’re learning to type, we may look at the keyboard to locate each letter. As we continue to practice typing, we may easily visualize — or remember — where each letter is, so we no longer have to look at the keyboard.


When we try to remember how to spell a word, many of us do this by picturing the word in our minds or visualizing ourselves writing or typing the word.

How To Know If Your Visual Memory Is Poor

Someone who has a problem with visual memory, particularly a child, may display the following signs:

  • Reading comprehension may be poor, and they may have to sound out every word.

  • Spelling may be poor.

  • Math skills may be poor and using a calculator may be challenging.

  • The individual may have trouble copying words and other images.

  • They may have a difficult time recognizing numbers and letters.

  • They may write slowly and mix up letters.

Someone with a poor visual memory may use other forms of memory to compensate. Some people with visual memory problems may use auditory memory, which involves “sounding the memory out.” For example, when you're trying to spell something, you may hear the letters in your head instead of seeing the visual information. Auditory memory may not always be as effective as visual memory, so someone with poor visual memory may not be able to substitute it entirely.

How To Enhance Visual Memory

If you or your child is experiencing difficulties with visual memory in daily life, or if you want to strengthen your visual memory, various exercises may help. Many of the following exercises are geared toward children, but they can also be useful for adults.

Visual Memory Can Affect How We Learn And Live.

The I-Spy Game

To play the I-Spy Game, you’ll usually need at least two people. One person may look around the environment and select an object, then describe it to the other person or people so that they can guess what is being described. This can require the players to digest the world around them and look for anything that matches the description of the object. 

What's Different?

This game can be played in different ways. First, you may be able to find activity books and online games where you're shown two similar pictures that have minor differences for you to find. For example, if the picture shows two trees, each may have a different number of branches. The What's Different game usually lists how many differences there are so that you know when you’ve found them all.

If playing this game with a child in real life, you can play the What's Different game by putting a few objects on a table, allowing your child to look at them, and then having them look away or close their eyes. You can then replace or rearrange the objects, and your child may identify the differences.

Match Game

One of the most popular memory games, a simple game of matching cards, can improve visual memory in children and adults. In general, the game involves an even number of face-down cards, with pairs having the same picture on their face. In turn, each player may flip over two cards at a time. When they find two cards with the same image, they can put the cards in their pile and take another turn. Whoever has the most cards in their pile when all pairs have been claimed wins.

Ask Questions

To help someone with their visual memory, you can ask questions about their day. Ask them what they ate for lunch, what they did at school, and so on. They may use their visual memory to provide answers.

Combining Audio and Visual Memory

To enhance written instructions, such as those on a homework assignment, you might give your child verbal instructions as well. This reinforcement can help not only with auditory learning, but also with connecting the dots between auditory and visual memory. In other words, wherever your child has a visual memory, you may combine it with an auditory memory. This can enhance both types of memory.

Online Therapy for Memory Challenges

If you or your child is having trouble with visual memory, you may seek help by speaking to a licensed therapist who can assess learning deficits and strengths and come up with a plan. A therapist may also be able to assist with memory challenges due to aging. 

Visiting a traditional therapist may not always be an accessible option. You may find that online therapy is easier to attend and fit into your schedule, since all it requires is a stable internet connection.

Studies have reported that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective in improving memory for those with various mental health concerns. CBT has shown to be as effective when administered online as it is in person.


The ability to form mental images of experiences, people, and items seen previously, or to recall images in general, is often called visual memory. We usually employ short-term and long-term visual memory on a daily basis and use visual memory when reading, writing, and spelling. It can be possible to improve visual memory through activities like answering questions that require you to dive into visual memories, playing the I Spy game, identifying differences between photos, and matching cards. If you’re experiencing visual memory issues that negatively impact your life, you may wish to speak with a licensed therapist online to discover potential solutions.

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