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Visual or Auditory Memory: What Works Better for You?
  • 20 Jan 2017
  • Medical Revision

Everyone works differently and it’s clear that we all have our own ways of learning and taking in new information. While most of us experiment with different techniques to find the best way for us, there may be research out there that tells us one way is actually better than another.

With around 65% of the world’s population being visual learners, meaning they remember things better when they look at them over using any other sense, there may be a pattern emerging.

How you learn may be different from the person sat next to you, but there has been some interesting research over the years to suggest that one technique may benefit you over another. Here at Pastest we’ve taken a look at some of the reports that might help you make up your mind!

What are the different learning styles?

There are three main learning styles: visual, auditory and tactile. While visual memory means the ability to recollect information from things we have seen, auditory memory means you are able to take in information that you have heard. Tactile refers to the idea of holding or touching something and being able to remember it.

It’s true that we are all slightly different when it comes to learning new things and remembering them, but if you’re studying for important exams, wouldn’t you want to try a proven method?

University of Iowa study

In 2014, a study from the University of Iowa emerged whereby researchers claimed we don’t remember things that we hear nearly as well as we see or touch. They chose 100 undergraduate students to participate in two experiments. In the first test, participants listened to sounds, looked at images and held objects at varying intervals between 1 and 32 seconds. They were then asked to recall them.

The second experiment required the participants to listen, watch and touch everyday objects and asked them to recall them after an hour, a day and a week. The results from both experiments demonstrated that the auditory recall came last, far behind their visual memory. While the students’ memory declined in general as time elapsed, it was very clear that visual memory surpassed auditory.

University of Bordeaux study

While it was proven in 2014 that students appeared to recall information better when they had seen it, in 2008 a study by the University of Bordeaux recognised that the ability to detect auditory and visual changes seemed to be controlled by separate mechanisms in the brain.

Researchers found that the participants found it easy to see visual changes but they also found that complex auditory changes were easily recognised too, which seems to suggest that differing parts of the brain deal with various techniques.

While memory is processed by the limbic system in the inner brain, it is the temporal lobes and occipital lobe that deal with hearing and vision respectively. These are located in other parts of the brain.

What does this mean for learning?

While slightly conflicting reports could mean an inconclusive answer when it comes to identifying the best way to learn, there is something important to take away from the various studies.

It is clear that a multi-sensory approach could be beneficial. Using tablets and mobile phones to revise and learn means you are both reading and touching, moving your finger across the screen as you learn. So for those who are skeptical about using our mobile app to prepare, it may be worth a go!


  • 20 Jan 2017
  • Medical Revision