Visual Thinkers

Visual thinkers think in pictures instead of in words. This means we think fast!

It also means we sometimes take in more detail than we realise at first. We jump to the end of a train of thought and forget to explain the steps in the middle. Plus occasionally get overloaded with information and can’t communicate what’s going on, at least temporarily.

The landscape of factual, sensory and intuitive information we use in decisions is not always obvious as a result to those around us. The reflection process can be all encompassing as there is so much data to process and this can mean there’s a delay when answering a question or explaining the reason for a decision. In fact, sometimes it is very hard to voice in words the process going on in our heads. Think TV without the sound!

Cheri Florance of eBrain Engineering Labs has spent a substantial part of her life studying visual thinkers, as a result of her son being non-verbal as a child. She now helps adult and child visual thinkers to understand their brain and adapt to expected social behaviour. A visual thinker’s behaviour can seem odd to verbal thinkers, as they can experience anxiety in situations where there is effectively just too much information. Verbal thinkers may not see the thought patterns seen by the visual thinker so may just see someone withdraw. In many ways, to the outside world this behaviour may seem similar to autism.  Visual thinkers though are well adapted socially, most of the time.

I found this list of things we may do differently to a verbal thinker, which may help verbal thinkers understand the process we follow better:

If you’re scratching your head wondering who among your family and friends are visual thinkers. Here are a few indicators:

“1. Many visual thinkers are naturally original.  Since visual thinkers often think in pictures without realizing it, they may often create mental movies and are day dreamers. This triggers more innovative and imaginative thinking. In turn, they are rewarded with the ability to visualize things from multiple perspectives, making them creative and fascinated with large ideas that may not seem realistic to others.

2. They may not excel when trying to understand topics piece by piece.  Don’t get me wrong, they are talented in witnessing connections between things. Although, they may get frustrated if they cannot see the bigger picture or the “why” in the “what” to begin with. Piece by piece thinkers can see ideas in a linear way. In contrast, a visual thinker will try to see all of the parts at once and how they interact with each other. A good way to take this into account is to imagine a 3D map of thoughts.

3. They are constantly taking in new things.  Due to this 3D way of thinking, they have the tendency to notice and experience more of their surroundings. This can express itself from being aware of the wind blowing outside to the kid tapping his pencil in the back of the room and back to the teacher’s explanation of logarithmic differentiation. Many visual thinkers are easily distracted, but can also feel more immersed in their atmosphere, making them great explorers.

4. They have the potential to remember more or have a photographic memory.  Feeling more connected with their surroundings may cause an emotional attachment to what has happened in their presence. This makes them more susceptible to remembering the details of each moment in their life that would usually be overlooked by most people. Similar to the idea of mental movies that was mentioned earlier, they will visualize memories in a picture or scene exactly how they saw it at the time.

5. They may have trouble putting thoughts into words.  Lots of people have trouble explaining how they feel or even putting their ideas into words. If this is you, consider the possibility that it’s because you think partly, or mainly, in pictures. Often, a person will simply label themselves as a poor communicator. In reality, it’s not the fault of the person, but the way that their brain makes sense of information. I mean, how does one put a visual scenario into words without working harder than most to say it out loud?”

by Alexis Thomas,

Photo by Rob Schreckhise on Unsplash

“The best indicator is your job, as visual brains lead to visual professions – engineer, doctor, pilot, computer expert, graphic designer, artist, dentist.”

Cheri Florance

Often surgeons are also visual thinkers and respond better to a video of a procedure to learn than a verbal explanation. This may help explain the difficulties visual thinkers have in comprehension. My daughter certainly finds this tricky and in all honesty, it only just occurred to me that this may be the cause… her obsession with YouTube and emojis finally explained!

Hope this was interesting!

Love Ruth x

Header image is a photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash.

1 Comment

  1. I definitely fall into this category!

    Having said that, my memory can best be described as ‘patchy’. If something can be visualised clearly (for example numbers, concepts, relationships, patterns etc) my recall is very good. But I’m abysmal at remembering details about events or people. I struggle to think what I did last weekend, for example, as this is something that can’t easily be represented visually.

    Thankfully there are plenty of opportunities in life for visual thinkers. A large part of my job, for example, is representing business performance, opportunities and risks in an easy to digest form so I normally employ data visualisation techniques.

    However, not everyone thinks like me and – despite my best efforts to avoid it – I frequently have to accompany graphs and charts with a table of numbers for the (presumably) verbal thinkers.



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