When you look at a newspaper article — or an advertisement — what do you see first? The words or the image? And what do you remember later? If you are like most people, the odds are that the picture — the frozen moment or the carefully constructed image — will stay with you longer. Try to remember the caption or the ad copy that accompanied the image, and you will have a harder time. This is simply part of the human condition. We just happen to be more visually oriented: it’s possible for us to remember an astonishing 80 percent of what we see, but only around 30 percent of what we read.
Our visual predeliction is used astutely by the advertising industry and the media. But when it comes to books and literature, pictures (at least for the adult reader) are traditionally seen as mere supplements to the text. Literature has largely come to mean the written word. There is a long and complex history behind why this is so, but the fact remains that in the literate world, the word triumphs over the image. It is a hierarchy of communication that we are familiar with, and accept as a matter of common sense. So when we think about learning, we usually connect it to literacy. Education is the ability to read and write.
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