What Is A Visual Memory And How Does It Affect Us?
Updated March 09, 2020
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Memory is not one single concept. Instead, there are a series of different types of memory one can have. In this post, we will discuss visual memory. What is it? How can you improve your visual memory? Let's find out.
What Is Visual Memory?
The term visual memory is quite self-explanatory. We can recall something we've seen. It's one of the most basic ways we learn. We see something, and we learn from it. If you have a hard time recalling what you can see, you're going to have a tough time learning. There are different types of visual memory, including:
- Short term. This is when we can recall something we've seen not too long ago. Short-term memory is used in our day-to-day lives. An artist can see something and immediately sketch it down. We can copy the papers we read. We read a password and remember it until we can write it down. We see a lot in our lives, so most of our short-term memory is just that. It disappears after a while if the memory has no use to us. However, if the short-term memory keeps being repeated enough times, or if the memory has some emotion attached to it, it becomes long-term.
- Long-term. This is when you can recall a memory from your past. As we said before, a memory with an emotional attachment to it is probably going to stay in your mind. Odds are, you have some childhood memories you can recall vividly. You can paint the picture in your mind with ease. Besides emotional attachment, long-term memory can happen due to something being repeated. Like how you repeatedly go to a location and can soon learn how to do it without GPS or any other aid.
Visual memory is quite important in the world of learning. As much as 80 percent of what we learn is visual. Here are a few examples of how we learn.
Reading And Writing
As we read, we look at words and connect them to their meanings. As we read, we remember a picture of that word. Have you ever read a novel and a picture of what's going on in that novel is painted in your head? This is a good example of visual memory.
For writing, we recall what the letter is in appearance. If you're typing, you may look at the keyboard at first to see what the letter looks like. As you learn how to use a keyboard, you can visualize where all the letters are.
When we try to spell a word, we can picture the word in our minds and know how it's spelled. You probably don't even realize it, either.
How To Know When Your Visual Memory Is Poor
Someone who has a problem with visual memory, particularly a child, may display the following signs.
- Their reading comprehension is poor. They may have to sound every word out. They cannot remember how to spell a word, either.
- Their math skills may be poor. This is because they can't visualize how to solve a math problem. Using a calculator may be hard for them.
- Trouble copying, be it words or another object that needs to be copied.
- They have a hard time recognizing numbers or letters.
- They write slowly. When they do write, they come across as mixing up their letters and their teachers may think they're lazy.
If someone has a poor visual memory, the person may use other forms of learning to recall the memory. Some people 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. With that said, auditory memory isn't as good as visual memory, so someone with poor visual memory can't substitute it entirely. If someone has auditory skills that are poor, they will replace them with visual skills that are much better. Our brains try to figure out the best ways to learn, and it may require a whole skill set of different ways to learn.
Facts About Visual Memory
With visual memory, someone may be trying to remember something if they look up, and then look left. This is how someone recalls a long-term memory. Short-Term memory is when you look up and to the right. However, some people may recall in a way that is the opposite, or not at all. This isn't a sign of any problem.
Visual memory is similar to spatial memory, which involves us recording the space around us. However, visual memory, for the most part, means that you are looking at objects and not a particular space. It's also related a bit to something called visual form constancy. This is when your mind can make an image, manipulate it, and learn different outcomes. This is mostly used for 3D objects that we can visualize and rotate.
Also, visual memory does work together with these other two terms. It will combine with spatial and visual form consistency to recall information. It all depends on what you're trying to recall and anything else you may have in your mind.
How To Enhance Visual Memory
If you are having a hard time with your visual memory, or you just want to improve it, you can do so using different types of exercises that can help improve your overall visual memory. Improving your visual memory is always a good thing. Even if you have a good visual memory, to begin with, learning how to improve it more can help you in the future. Here are a few ideas you can implement if you want to improve your visual memory.
The I-Spy Game
Everyone knows about the I-Spy game. Maybe you've played it for fun during a road trip, or had a book with the game in it. It's quite fun, and a good way to boost your visual memory. Look around in the environment for an object. Then, describe it. The person must digest the world around them and look for anything that matches the description of the object. The more obscure, the better.
This is a game that can play in different ways. There are activity books and games online where you're shown two similar pictures. However, these pictures have minor differences that you must find. For example, if it's a photo of two trees, there may be different amounts of branches. The What's Different game usually lists how many differences there are, making it easy to write them down.
In real life, you can play the What's Different game by putting a few objects somewhere, and then having your child or someone else look away or close their eyes. Then, you replace or rearrange the objects. Your child must tell the difference between them.
A simple game of matching cards can improve your visual memory. We've all played this. There are face-down cards, and two of each have the same picture on their face. You must draw two at a time until you match two of the same. Then, you get rid of them. Keep drawing until you get all of them.
If someone wants their memory improved, you can help by asking questions all throughout the day. Ask them what they did for lunch, what they did after school, and so on. This can improve their visual memory quite a bit.
When your child is given a handout, make sure it's written clearly. Not just the handwriting, but the instructions. Sometimes, the instructions can be written in a convoluted manner, and it's up to you to be able to make sure they're written in a way that's easy to understand.
Use Both Memories
When your child has been given written instructions, give them verbal instructions as well. This now only helps with their auditory learning but also helps them connect the dots between auditory and visual memory. Whenever your child has a written memory, place an auditory memory beside it. This can help enhance the visual memory too.
These are just a few ways to help enhance one's visual memory. Having a strong visual memory is a much-needed skill in life, so always improve it, especially if the person is a child. Also, you can improve your memory by
If you or your child is having trouble with your visual memory, you can improve it by speaking to a counselor. A counselor can figure out how you learn the best and can use that to their advantage. If you are aging and are having memory troubles, a counselor can help with that too. It's up to you to seek help when you need it, and a counselor can help you do just that. Speak to one today and see what they can do for you.