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Is audio or visual information better remembered?

Is audio or visual information better remembered?

Introduction: (Initial Observation)

Learning how to learn is the key to the success of many scientists and professionals. Learning is often a challenge and a long lasting battle for many people who need to learn large amounts of material in a short or limited time. Those who have higher academic and business achievements have often discovered the ways that can help them to learn easier and faster. Many factors can have positive or negative affect in our memory and learning ability. These factors can be studied and the results can be used to improve our memory.

Human brain receive information through the senses. Vision and hearing are two commonly used senses that we use for learning. We may read a poem (visual) or listen to a poem (audio). In this project we will attempt to find out if audio information or visual information can be memorized better.


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.

Project advisor

“When I was a child, my mind would fly all over the world while trying to read a page of a book. Basically I could not concentrate and finish a subject. I decided to do an experiment and combine audio and visual input to simplify my learning. To learn a chapter of history book, I first recorded that chapter. Then I played the tape (Loud with headphone) and at the same time looked at the book text and images. This really worked and became an effective learning method for me. I also noticed that dim light on the page and bright light in the room is causing distraction, so I turned off the light in the room and used a bright desk lamp to give enough light to the page that I am reading. This also helped me to focus and have a better concentration. Combination of these methods saved me from failing in school and helped me all along during the college and after that.”

Information Gathering:

Find out about human brain and different types of memory. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the factors that affect memory. Keep track of where you got your information from.

Following is a sample professional answer to our question:

The quick answer is that either type can be more memorable depending on the circumstances, but visual information is more easily remembered overall. Part of what makes the answer complex is that what we see often causes us to think, and that thinking is remembered as if it were heard; so information presented visually might actually get stored twice: once in a visual “code” and once in an auditory code. There are other factors such as how motivated we are to remember that also can have a big effect. Here’s a more detailed answer, courtesy of my colleague Dr. Roger Remington:

Our capacity to store visual patterns for later recognition is remarkable, so if I had to choose between the two alternatives I would say the simple answer is that visual information is remembered better. The more complicated answer involves what precisely is meant by “remembered better” and whether this holds for all conditions. For lists of words, for example, I don’t think there is much difference between visual and auditory modes of presentation. Even this is complicated because for auditory stimulus presentations visual imagery can help memory; likewise, for visual stimulus presentations auditory memory can help, so it’s not clear we get a very pure measure of each. It also matters whether people are (1) asked to recall what was presented or (2) simply to recognize a previously presented item. For recognition, people have an amazing ability to store complex visual information and to recognize and discriminate old from new pictures at retention intervals of days. However, people can also remember and hum tunes for years while they are only able to depict small portions of a scene they have been presented. Part of the problem in answering this question is the nature of auditory and visual stimuli. To oversimplify, a natural visual scene is interconnected spatially whereas an auditory stimulus in interconnected serially. This leads to differences in our ability to reproduce (recall) the event and in the amount of information needed to recognize a visual or auditory event among distracting events. If one chooses to look at the amount of information stored, then it would be the case that our visual information would win because of the rich representation of the world our visual system gives us. This reasoning underlies the value of using spatial mnemonics (memory aids) to remember speeches and the like.

It is important to keep in mind that in daily life what we remember is (to a first approximation) what we attend to. The modality (visual vs auditory) plays a role, but our motivation plays perhaps a more significant key role. In fact, the source of information is often lost with time: we remember that George Washington was the first president but are unlikely to be able to recall whether we heard that (audition) or read it somewhere (vision). Our memory for facts (semantic memory) can be separated from our memory for events (episodic memory). It is in episodic memory that we have the clearest recollection of whether we heard or read something.

Visual and auditory memories can also reinforce each other. It is helpful to have both pictures and spoken words to support memory since that gives us a richer internal representation. A very powerful effect that works in both modalities is organization. If the material to be remembered is organized into a narrative or other structure it is remembered much better than if it is a disorganized hodge-podge.

Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.

Is audio or visual information better remembered?

The purpose of this project is to test which type of information (audio or visual) can be remembered best for identical information and identical amount of time.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

Independent or manipulated variables for our experiments are:

  • The type of information (audio, visual)

All other variables that may have an affect in memory will be kept constant. Our constants are:

  • The amount of time to hear or view
  • Subject’s awareness of need to memorize
  • motivation level (low, high)
  • Age
  • Sex

Dependent variable is the rate of memorized information.

Controlled variables are light, temperature, environmental noise. (Any environmental factor that may affect learning must be controlled. In other words you must be sure that all experiments are being performed or all subjects are being tested in the same conditions)


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.

What we offer here are just three sample hypothesis. You can select one of these or have your own.

  • My hypothesis is that visual information can be memorized better.
  • My hypothesis is that audio information can be memorized better.
  • My hypothesis is that many other factors are involved such as the loudness of audio information and the size and contrast of visual information. So we will not be able to get to a firm conclusion on this question.

Experiment Design:

Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”

Select about 10 person to be your subjects of memory test. Try to select same age people and same number of males and females.

Experiment 1:


In this experiment we will use two sets of 7 randomly chosen one digit numbers as our sample information. You can use (4,1,7,6,2,3,1) for visual test and (5,3,2,9,4,7,0) for audio test. We will try to see if our test subjects can memorize these numbers better if they look at it silently or if we read the numbers for them without them looking at the numbers.


Visual test: Write the numbers that you have selected for visual test on seven white cards. For each subject give them the cards one at a time and let them look at it for 3 seconds. Then get that card and give him/her the next card until you finish all seven cards. Give a piece of paper to the subject and ask him/ her to write his name and date and time. (At this time the subject may be repeating the numbers in his/her mind. We interrupt this by asking the subject to write his name and date first.). Then ask the subject to write any of the numbers that he/she can remember.

Audio test: Read the numbers that you have selected for audio test. Read each number, wait two seconds and then read the next number until all seven numbers are finished. Give a piece of paper to the subject and ask him/ her to write his/her name and date and time. Then ask the subject to write any of the numbers that he/she can remember.

Note: For five of your subjects do visual test first and for the other five do audio test first.

How do you score the results:

For each correct answer give 1 point. For each wrong answer give -1 point. Ignore missing numbers and don’t force the subject to give you all seven numbers if he/she does not remember it.

Record the results in a table like this:

Test: Seven one digit number Visual Information Score Audio information Score
Subject 1
Subject 2
Subject 3
Subject 4
Subject 5
Subject 6
Subject 7
Subject 8
Subject 9
Subject 10

After your results table is completed, calculate the average of scores for each type of information.

Make a chart/ Graph:

Use the above results table to make a bar graph and visually present your results. Make a bar graph with two vertical bars. One bar for visual information and one bar for audio information. The height of each bar will show the average score for that specific type of information.

More experiments are required: (Design them yourself.)

All other experiments are based on the same model. We only change the contents and size of information. For example instead of seven one digit numbers you may select any of the following:

  • 10 first names
  • 10 flower names
  • 10 city names
  • 10 country names
  • 10 letters (F, A, C, G, ….)
  • 5 two digit numbers (21, 73, …)
  • ….

After you finish all your experiments, combine the results and calculate a final score. Combined results can be entered in a table like this:

Experiment name Visual information Score Audio information Score
Seven one digit number
10 characters
10 names
Total Score

Use the total scores for your final conclusion.

Make more graphs:

You may make one separate graph for each one of the information types that you test including names, and letters. you may also combine all the scores in a table similar to the above table and use it to draw a final graph that shows the total score.

For total score make a bar graph with two vertical bars. One bar for visual information and one bar for audio information. The height of each bar will show the the total score for that specific type of information.

Materials and Equipment:

Pen, paper and some small cards.

The brain project or the model of brain from MiniScience.com may be a valuable complement to this project.

Results of Experiment (Observation):

Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.


If you do any calculations for your project, write your calculations in this part of your report.

Summary of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.


List of References

A book called “Human Memory” by Alan Baddeley is a good reference for this area though tough going for younger students.

Brain structures and their functions

Functions of brain parts (Medial Surface and lateral surface)