Visual thinking

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Picture thinking, visual thinking , visual/spatial learning or right brained learning is the common phenomenon of thinking through visual processing using the part of the brain that is emotional and creative to organize information in an intuitive and simultaneous way.

Thinking in pictures, is one of a number of other recognized forms of non-verbal thought such as kinesthetic, musical and mathematical thinking. Multiple thinking and learning styles, including visual, kinesthetic, musical, mathematical and verbal thinking styles are a common part of many current teacher training courses.

While visual thinking and visual learners are not synonymous, those who think in pictures have generally claimed to be best at visual learning. Also, while preferred learning and thinking styles may differ from person to person, precluding perceptual or neurological damage or deficits diminishing the use of some types of thinking, most people (visual thinkers included) will usually employ some range of diverse thinking and learning styles whether they are conscious of the differences or not.

Concepts related to visual thinking have played an important role in art and design education over the past several decades. Important literature on this subject includes Rudolf Arnheim's 1969 book "Visual Thinking", Robert McKim's "Experiences in Visual Thinking" (1971), and Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" (1979).


Controversy about visual thinking

Eidetic Memory

Eidetic Memory (photographic memory) may co-occur in visual thinkers as much as in any type of thinking style as it is a memory function associated with having vision rather than a thinking style. Eidetic Memory can still occur in those with visual agnosia, who, unlike visual thinkers, may be limited in the use of visualization skills for mental reasoning.


Individuals use a variety of learning styles or strategies, among these are auditory, kineasthetic and visual-spatial learning, which are associated with the sensory organs (receptors), sensory system and sense, respectively ears with hearing, eyes with sight, skin, limbs and bodily movements with touch and body gestures. Research suggests that dyslexia is a symptom of a predominant visual/spatial learning from the earliest studies, circa 1896 -1925 by Morgan (1896), Hinselwood (1900) and Orton (1925). Morgan used the term 'word blindness,' in 1896; Hinselwood expanded on 'word blindness' to describe the reversing of letters and similar phenomenon in 1900s; Orton suggested that individuals have difficulty associating the visual with the verbal form of words, in 1925. Further studies using technologies (PET and MRI) and wider and varied user groups in various languages support the earlier findings. Visual-spatial symptoms (dyslexia, dyspraxia, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and the like) arise in non-visual and non-spatial environments and situations; hence, visual/spatial learning is aggravated by an education system based upon information presented in written text instead of presented via multimedia and hands-on experience.

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