Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore the picture superiority effect as you homeschool your kids

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

When it comes to homeschooling, it’s not just the kids who are stressed; it’s the parents as well, since they have to relay and enforce whatever the teachers say. These days, teachers, companies, politicians, and everyone else shares information, especially online, yet everyone is succumbing to Wiio’s law, which says that what can be misunderstood will be misunderstood. However, there’s actually a simple way to alleviate some of this misunderstanding. 

What exactly is Wiio’s law?

As mentioned on the SPEAK|pr program, Wiio’s law talks about how there are a number of filters between the person that sends information and the person that receives the information. This law states that only some 20% of what is intended will finally be understood due to these filters, which include language, ability, age, culture, health, cultural disposition, understanding, and more. Each one of these different factors will degrade the message in the mind of the recipient. What’s also important in terms of Wiio’s law is the format of messages, because the information shared among people is impacted by the format in which it is sent and received as the content itself. 

Back to homeschooling, it’d be fair to say that the children need help, but the parents and teachers need help as well. With school documents, these easily fall into Wiio’s law, because instructions are being given in a vague way. It creates tension and stress because there is a command, which is specific, yet the ability to deliver it is not specific. Teachers say that children are reviewed both as they are doing their schoolwork, but that they will also be tested at the end. The question is, which one is more important? Are they both equally important? Which one should students focus on more? Another improvement that could be made is about consolidating all communication and schoolwork onto one platform such as Microsoft Teams.

Children are being given a great deal of instruction, but it’s listed out in a way that appeals to teachers but not so much to the kids themselves. Now, anyone that’s got children knows that following the rules when they get to about the age of 11, becomes the last thing on their mind, and anyone trying to instill discipline at home knows that tries to one might, the main goal is to look after the child’s mental health, because frankly, the learning is second to their sanity. 

Children are motivated by having fun. Being stress-free, in fact, facilitates learning not just in children but in adults as well. During lockdown, children are being sent information in formats that are easy to create and understand for the teachers and parents, but not so much for the children themselves who belong to a digital generation. For them, the instructions are possibly going to be difficult to comprehend, which can cause great stress.

The picture superiority effect and why it’s so important

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

As mentioned on the SPEAK|pr program, which is Storify, Personalise, Engage, Amplify, and to Know, the picture superiority effect is something everyone needs to be paying attention to, because unfortunately, most school instructions do not have any pictures on it. The picture superiority effect refers to the phenomenon that pictures and images are more likely to be remembered than words. It’s been demonstrated that the human memory is very receptive to symbols, and it understands symbols, especially moving symbols. A British man, Allan Paivio, came up with the jeweling coding theory which says that the brain processes moving video in two parts of the brain and connects them together again. So, it makes coding and retrieval much faster than simple text, which is why school instruction should be taking this fact into consideration as they make their learning materials.

As seen during lockdown, many people ignore instructions, but even more people just don’t really understand it. This emphasizes to everyone sending messages, whether it’s the teachers, the politicians, entrepreneurs, that people need to analyze Wiio’s law and think about not just what needs to be said, but the format in which the information will be sent out. Is it an image? Is it an audio file? Is it a piece of text? Is it an infographic? 

Once you have answered that question, you can make use of some of the tools mentioned on the SPEAK|pr program and the Technology Applications Directory, most of which are free, to help you craft your content. When you create content that is engaging, it doesn’t just mean that you use content and graphics that you find engaging in a format that you like and find easy to use. It’s about what they would find easy and what they would find engaging. Undoubtedly, children are one of the main audiences that need to be addressed to reduce the stress levels for them and help them get through lockdown. So, if you have a message worth sharing something that’s compelling enough to articulate and send to somebody else, think about the state of mind the receiver will be in when they receive your message, and think about what’s going to be the best format for them to receive your message.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

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