If you are a copywriter, a poet or you are working on the next great American novel, please stop reading. Your world is about to be rocked, shocked, and generally upset.
OK, now that we’re all alone, here’s a little secret. Remember back in school, Show and Tell? Chances are the kids were way more excited about your pet Terrapin than anything you said about it. Maybe some of them remember Tommy the Turtle to this day, but wouldn’t recognize you.
That’s something called the picture superiority effect*. According to people who study brains and the way we think (cognitive scientists), when information is presented orally, after 3 days, people will only remember 10% of it. But if pictures are added, memory recall improves to 65%.
Sounds good in theory, but still stuck to your bullets on a slide? Try this little test below.
No matter how great the line, it’s the picture that brings it home. That’s because, according to the neuro-boffins, our brains are translating words to pictures anyway. So when we save that brain a few extra cycles ( by supplying it with an image) it sticks better.
That gives you a simple, general rule when communicating: Paint a picture with words, AND use a picture. Before everyone goes crazy with clip-art, think about what else these examples have in common. Each picture reinforces a simple, understandable point. Each picture is very concrete, showing the claim. Where it is a little abstract it uses a common, easily understandable and recognizable device (the map).
Sorry copywriters, while I admire your ability to craft amazing lines, you cannot work alone.
*Nelson, D.L., Reed, U.S., & Walling, J.R. (1976). Pictorial superiority effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory, 2, 523-528.
More about the Picture Superiority Effect
- QS Primer: Spaced Repetition and Learning (quantifiedself.com)
Gavn is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.