What Makes Visual Communication So Effective?
You’ve heard that visual communication is essential to your marketing and messaging strategies. But why does it matter? Here is the science behind visual communication — and the stats that will make you a believer.
The Science Behind Visual Communication
Humans are visual creatures. Our eyes were designed to continually scan and process the environment, quickly identifying and assessing a vast array of visual information. The eyes shift unconsciously three times per second to take in familiar concepts and assess where to scan next.
A study by MIT neuroscientists identified that the human brain can process images they see for as little as 13 milliseconds. That’s thirteen-thousandths of a second or the equivalent of about 75 images each second. The key to this speed is one-way processing, also known as feedforward processing. This means the communication isn’t reciprocal; the brain doesn’t need to contemplate a response.
In contrast, the brain has to conduct multiple processes to convert text into recognizable concepts. When eyes scan a page of text (like this blog post!), each word is recognized as a picture and associated with a concept from a brain-based visual dictionary.
Simultaneously, the brain converts the word to sound and we “hear” the word in our heads. This process is repeated multiple times for each word in a text string and then goes through a separate process of reading comprehension to understand the message that the words are trying to convey in combination.
There are multiple brain regions involved in effectively comprehending the written word, and while the exact amount of time it takes for text to navigate the correct neurological pathways and interpret the message varies from person to person, one thing is clear: reading text it’s far slower than the brain’s ability to process visual images.
Visual Processing Statistics
With the visual processing of images such as an innate and efficient human function, it makes sense to target this process to make your marketing and communication efforts most effective. The stats back it up, too. Consider the following:
- Visual images are processed by the human brain 60,000 times faster than text.
- Web visitors scan written content and only read about 20% of the copy.
- People form a first impression of your content within 50 milliseconds.
- Posts using visual communication receive 650% more engagement than text-only posts.
- Studies show that people retain 20% of what they read, but 80% of what they see.
The bottom line is this: If you want to grab people’s attention and have them retain your message afterward, you’d better be using visual communication.
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