Visual and Verbal -styles new evidence may help educators


It has long been thought that propensities for visual or verbal learning styles influence how children acquire knowledge successfully and how adults reason in every-day life; however, there was no empirical link to this hypothesis from cognitive neuroscience.

In the States job applicants are often required to offer an  opinion on whether they consider themselves visual or verbal learners

A recent University of Pennsylvania psychology study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology to scan the brain, reveals that people who consider themselves visual learners, as opposed to verbal learners, have a tendency to convert linguistically presented information into a visual mental representation.

The more strongly an individual identified with the visual cognitive style, the more that individual activated the visual cortex when reading words. The opposite also appears to be true from the study’s results.

 Future research based on the findings from this study may be able to determine whether cognitive styles are something one is predisposed to or can learn. Depending on the flexibility with which one can adopt a style, educators could for instance cater to one style over another to improve learning.

The report concluded   “. . .it may be the case, given proper training or motivation, that an individual can effectively learn to adopt a new cognitive style if doing so would facilitate problem solving in a specific domain. For example, a student who prefers the verbal style may be able to learn to visualize in certain situations where it would be helpful for a specific subject, such as organic chemistry. Future research on this topic may be able to suggest new and effective teaching methods that are tailored to the unique details of specific contexts and to the unique characteristics of specific individuals (Kraemer, Rosenberg and Thompson-Schill, 2009: 3797).


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