Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Science of Visual Organization

There is a science behind how we organize what we see - and in this media-dominated world, understanding what attracts and distracts us, explains and doesn't confuse, is important for everyone to know and learn including teachers, webmaster newbies, and of course today's students.

Vision may be the 'sense' that fools us the most - because the information that we take in seems automatic or obvious. The logic of pictures and words may also be different, so that it's not always easy to explain to someone else why something is visually clear, ambiguous, intriguing, or downright annoying. Visual overload is underestimated in the classroom mostly because younger people are more susceptible to overload than older ones.

But, the logic of 'visual arguments' isn't a common subject in Education school. But it should be. Visual classroom 'victims' may commit many accidental mistakes that make following multi-stepped processes difficult or impossible, promote inattentiveness and distraction (so not due to ADD), and baffle young learners.

As it turns out, most young children are much better at analyzing 'big pictures' over 'details'. This is true for normal development as well as for some people who have a strong preference for visual simplicity due to a limited visual memory span (can be seen in dyslexia, birth injury, preemie birth, autism spectrum disorders, family preference, sensory processing impairment, and more).

What do these classrooms resemble more?

These preferred NYU pictures?

Or these least preferred ones?

Visual organization is a big topic to blog on, so we'll talk more about it later. We got to thinking about the topic because John sent a link on "Situation Awareness" (thanks!) - and its discussion of the topic of visual organization and human performance in such diverse tasks as airplane piloting and wartime battlefield maneuvers. As it turns out, these scenarios aren't so different from holiday shopping malls and school.

The Logic of Picture Preference
Nature Conservancy Picture
Local and Global Processing of Pictures in Children.
Situation Awareness
Situational Awareness and War

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