Memory: Tangible vs. Intangible

In the “memory” section of the article the author presents the idea that it is easier for humans to remember visual information (colors, pictures) than purely text based information – information that cannot be represented visually in any significant way other than text ( phone numbers, friends’ birthdays). From an evolutionary standpoint, why do you think the human mind is better at remembering tangible information than intangible information? In other words, what has caused the human brain to distinguish between these two types of information and favor one over the other?

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3 Responses to “Memory: Tangible vs. Intangible”

  1. foxbjk Says:

    I think this is because we, as humans, are conditioned to pay more attention to that which demands our attention. Text is just there, it doesn’t command your attention and the information isn’t given to you, you must search for it. I think it’s easier for people to remember visual stimuli because when we think about it, we have something we can picture in our heads, and it doesn’t need to be completely accurate to get the full scope. I think it’s 100% up to the person which they work better with, but maybe it’s because a photograph has more for us to focus on than text. Maybe it’s the stimulation of images that sticks to our minds as opposed to the information…

  2. tspeters Says:

    I think the human mind in our generation has developed a very visual sense of recognition. Not only do we compare images with things, but with the rise of very impressive graphics like in video games and different visuals to represent more user-friendliness. Graphics in video games are almost life-like so it is easier for the human mind to comprehend what is going on in these types of virtual environments. Thus, we compare this fake realism to actual reality. This visual representation is apparent in new operating systems, web pages, cellphones, etc. These types of interfaces are starting to really focus on visuals because many would much rather look at something then have to read it and it allows designers to be more creative; instead relying of boring text representation.

  3. chmbrigg Says:

    I’m going to go and get all philosophical/linguistic here, but typically in language (the relationship between a thing and its representation – whether it’s in words, pictures, etc), there are 3 main types of relationships:

    Iconic (resemblance) – Where for example, the representation of a cow looks like a cow, so we know it’s a cow. Think of icons on a computer. The trash “icon” actually looks like a trash can.

    Indexical (cause and effect) – Where, for example, stepping in a “meadow muffin” makes me think of a cow. There is a causal link between the thing and its representation, but it is not based on representation. A better example might be a thermometer, which INDICATES temperature.

    Symbolic (arbitrary) – Where, for example, the symbol “x15” could refer to a particular cow because a farmer said it does. There is no real link between the thing and its representation aside from what the farmer arbitrarily decided. Think of the rock star Prince’s changing his name in the 90’s to a symbol for no other reason than that he was Prince.

    Given these three concepts now, it should be easy to see the strength of the iconic, picture-based representations mentioned in the question, right? Can you think of a reason, based on our thousands of years of human history, why this might be true? Why must every big brand have a graphical logo like Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc.?


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