Take a look at the table given below. Which sentences comes alive to your mind’s eye when you read? If you’re not an alien then chances are very high that you will find the sentences on the right hand side more vivid and easier to remember. Why is that? These sentences contains phrases like (1) kiss your foot (2) Adam and Eve (3) bees to honey (4) burning hot. And they turn on images in our mind’s eye which makes them come alive.
What is so special about images and why does our brain give more importance to them? Daniel Coyle answered this question in a single word – evolution. Let’s do a simple experiment to find out if our brain is a product of evolution. In the image given below, one set of circles appears to be bulging outwards and the other appears to be dented inwards. Can you identify them?
The images are far easier to grasp, recall, and perform. This is because your brain spent millions of years evolving to register images more vividly and memorably than abstract ideas. (After all, in prehistoric days, no one ever had to worry about getting eaten by a hungry idea. But they did have to worry about lions.). Whenever possible, create a vivid image for each chunk you want to learn. The images don’t have to be elaborate, just easy to see and feel. – The Little Book of Talent
The circles that are lighter on the top appears to be bulged and the ones darker on the top appears to be dented. Why did our brain develop this perception? Until the invention of fire and more recently the invention of electricity, all significant sources of illumination for billions of years came from the sun. So light almost always came from above. This made our brain to build a simple rule that objects lighter on the top will be bulged. From this we can conclude that our brain is a product of evolution. Let’s do another experiment to show that our visual memory is powerful. Spend few minutes to test your visual memory.
After recalling 10 out of 13 images, I am convinced that our visual memory is powerful. Let’s put Daniel Coyle’s advice into action. He advices us to create a vivid image for each chunk we want to learn. Chunking enables our brain to store information in an efficient way in long term memory. I wrote about it in detail here. Associating the chunk with a vivid image enables us to recall the chunk with ease whenever needed. At this point I’m not sure how to implement his idea. Whenever I’m stuck on a problem I look at my role models for solutions. I know couple of them who think in images (1) Prof. Sanjay Bakshi (2) Richard Feynman.
“Sidecar” investing is a term introduced by Richard Zeckhauser in his famous essay Investing in the Unknown and Unknowable. In investing, big money is made by those who possess complimentary skills. Those who lack those skills (99% of them) can partner with those who possess complimentary skills and still make it big. Think of buying shares in Berkshire Hathaway in 1980s and riding along with Warren Buffett by paying nothing to him. This is a power mental model (chunk) and how does Prof. Bakshi remember this chunk? He associates this chunk with a famous scene from the movie “Sholay”. Non-Indian readers should think of riding along with Jason Statham. If you go through Prof. Bakshi’s presentations carefully you can see that he associates every chunk with a vivid image.
When Richard Feynman was a small boy his father read him about dinosaurs from the Encyclopedia Britannica. In it he read “This thing is twenty-five feet high and the head is six feet across”. His father didn’t stop there and he taught Feynman how to visualize them.
“Let’s see what that means. That would mean that if he stood in our front yard he would be high enough to put his head through the window but not quite because the head is a little bit too wide and it would break the window as it came by.” Everything we’d read would be translated as best we could into some reality and so I learned to do that–everything that I read I try to figure out what it really means, what it’s really saying by translating and so I used to read the Encyclopedia when I was a boy but with translation, you see, so it was very exciting and interesting to think there were animals of such magnitude–I wasn’t frightened that there would be one coming in my window as a consequence of this. – The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
Around 70% of sense receptors and 30% of our cortex is devoted to visual processing. It’s a crime if we don’t use it to our advantage. Let’s follow the advice of Daniel Coyle and copy the implementations of Prof. Bakshi and Richard Feynman and develop the habit of thinking in images. Update: Prof. Bakshi shared some materials on thinking in images which can be found here and here.