There is a great new study released by two profs from the University of Iowa with some intriguing findings about what we remember and why. For some time now, there has been wide speculation that humans are more adept to visual or tactile stimulation than auditory. That is, a lot of people have figured we remember things better when we see or touch them. It's no secret that we forget most of what we hear. This information has been well proven in animal studies, but not fully developed in a human study. In this new research we can now see the results quite clearly. We recall what we see and touch significantly better than we recall what we hear.
We recall what we see and touch significantly better than we recall what we hear.
There is another intriguing suggestion in this research as well, buried near the bottom of the study. Because of the suggestions this research gives about how our brains process information, it is also possible to conclude that retention will be significantly greater when information is attached to already familiar stimulus. Dan and Chip heath explore this idea in their book, "Made To Stick", in which they suggest creating "mental hooks" to make ideas sticky. They suggest our minds are like velcro, and the more hooks we create to attach new information to the familiar, the more likely we are to recall and understand it. This research supports this idea, though it was not conclusive.
They suggest our minds are like velcro, and the more hooks we create to attach new information to the familiar, the more likely we are to recall and understand it.
We all communicate. Some of us are professional communicators, in which we spend time being paid to teach or sell. Others of us may not be in the career field of communication, but we still spend significant amounts of time talking, tweeting, networking, and writing. Maybe you're putting together a presentation for work. Maybe you're trying to have a conversation with your kids. No matter the situation, this information has application. We should remember to use visual and tactile stimuli whenever we can in our communication. Are you in sales? Be sure to have your product available for people to hold, touch, and feel. If you create digital products, how can you create tactile mental hooks? Can you create visuals that hook to familiar tactile experiences? Also, we should consider how to attach new information to the familiar. For example, find a great analogy you could use. These types of communication tools will significantly increase retention.
This study suggests that our brains may very well process memories in different ways depending on the stimulus. Information is probably coded and stored depending on the way we receive it, possibly in multiple places with multiple connections. For example, imagine picking up a potent smelling permanent marker and placing one point on a clean piece of paper. Not compelling. Easily forgettable. No imagine you place two more dots on the paper, making a triangle. You then grab the marker with your whole hand, making a fist, and draw multiple thick lines connecting the dots to each other in every fashion possible until you're nearly dizzy from the sweet smell of black permanent ink. Lines so thick they bleed through the paper. This is what it's like to use multiple stimuli in the brain, creating multiple points of connection. Thus, consider using as many different senses as possible to increase retention, as it is likely this will cause us to "code and store" the information in multiple places. We get people to recall our message by using multiple stimuli and communication methods, developed strategically around strong mental hooks and analogies.
We get people to recall our message by using multiple stimuli and communication methods, developed strategically around strong mental hooks and analogies.
Make it interesting. Make it familiar. Make it an experience.