Humans: Hardwired for video

Author Anastasia Kakotariti

Let’s start with a fact: people really like videos. We use video every day for a variety of reasons. For fun, for socialising, for work, to learn something new. According to YouTube, one billion hours of video are watched daily, and even though millennials still prefer textbooks over videos, generation Z (14-23) choose YouTube as their favourite learning method.

It’s not just an age thing, though. Scientists say that when reading, the brain works harder.  It has to scan every word, create its own “inner voice” – mine sounds like a mix between Stephen Fry and Salma Hayek –  and visualise what you’re reading. Don’t forget that the brain helps to develop emotions, so if it is not busy reading, it can engage differently, and retain information more easily.

So are we lazy? Is this why video is so popular?

It turns out that no, we don’t need to feel bad for choosing to watch the movie instead of reading the book. Videos are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

For thousands of years our brains have been programmed to watch out for movement; movement for humans was a possible danger. Movement triggered a simple fight or flight response to the world around us; our instinct to attend to what captures our attention. We weren’t programmed to read, our brains developed that skill later. But our brains were always able to observe, and that’s why our brain focuses on moving images and prioritises visual information over other types of information.

However not everyone learns the same way. One popular theory, the VARK model, identifies four types of learners:

Visual learners are the people that prefer engaging through watching, auditory learners will remember info after hearing it, reading learners are the ones preferring to read about something, i.e. subtitles and text, while kinesthetic learners will eagerly participate in a hands-on activity. The good news is that video combines almost all of these types.

A few years back, when I was pregnant with my daughter, during one of our antenatal classes the midwife asked my partner: “What would you do if Anastasia is out and you have to bath the baby by yourself?” My partner calmly replies “I bring up YouTube and type “how to bath baby”.” Most of us will watch a video on how to fix something wrong with our laptop, instead of reading an article about it. “How to tie a tie” has an amazing 69 million views.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. When reading, I have absolute control over it. Nothing else exists. Watching a video though is sometimes a form of a mental break. We simply let go and let’s be honest, it feels less like work and more fun. So please leave the guilt aside, your book won’t hold it against you, your brain is going to thank you.  Just press play.

Ps: The irony of writing about all these in a blog, instead of explaining through the medium of video, has not been lost on me!

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