The third main benefit of using infographics in communication is their ability to help people retain information, as the graphics are able to extend the reach of our memory systems. Visualizations do this by instantly and constantly drawing upon nonvisual information that’s stored in our long-term memory (Ware, p. 352). The human brain can recall familiar symbols, scenes, and patterns, allowing us to make rapid connections to already stored information and to quickly comprehend what we’re seeing. This prompts the question: Which visualization methods best serve recall for various different types of memory?

There are three main types of memory that relate to viewing images. The iconic memory is the snapshot of a scene that you retain for a brief instant after looking at something. It is stored for less than a second, unless it is analyzed and connected to something that is already stored in your brain (Sperling via Ware, p. 352). Long-term memory stores information from our experiences that we will retain for long periods of time, and from which we draw upon in order to process new information. Long-term memory is further divided into three areas: episodic memory, semantic memory, and procedural memory. Episodic memory is the primary device for recalling images and scenes that we’ve experienced, and the feelings associated with those experiences. Semantic memory enables us to recall knowledge that has no specific context or experience associated with it, and could generally ...

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