I’m a web developer…and I really enjoy it. That means things like:
var countdown = 3000-i;
alert(“Number of times you’ll see this again: “+countdown);
are fun for me. For the longest time I wondered why that was…but I think I recently figured it out.
As a business management major, I had the opportunity to take pretty much every personality test in existence. I’ve been Myers-Briggs’d, Jung typologied, Kiersey Temperament Sorted, True Colored, Risk Aversioned, Strength Found, Five Factored and that red/blue/green stress triangle thing’d. I learned a lot about myself through these tests, especially in the areas of my tendencies and proficiencies. They really can help you understand yourself. I would strongly encourage any of you who have not taken such a test to try out one.
That said, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a test that I’d never taken before: a “learning style” test. I took the test during a workshop for web designers and developers. The purported purpose (hey look…I’m alliterate) of the test was to aid you in understanding the ways you learn (pretty obvious). The test rated you on five different sensory learning styles: visual, logical, physical, auditory, and verbal.
The learning styles that I scored highest in were logical and verbal. I scored mid-range in auditory. I scored low on physical. However, the most notable result was that I scored zero points in the visual learner category. I took the test in stride at the time, attributing it to the fact that I’ve never taken an art class in my life. However, I spent some time really pondering it in the days following the workshop. This pondering led me to the determination that a suspicion I have had about myself for a long time is indeed true: I don’t see stuff.
What do I mean by that? Well, whether you’re a brief acquaintance or my closest friend, chances are highly likely that I have no idea what color your hair or eyes are. I couldn’t tell you what type of car you drive (not just the model…I don’t even know who made it) or what color it is. I couldn’t describe a single piece of clothing you’ve ever worn. If I have visited your house, I can’t tell you anything that is on your coffee table or describe any pictures you have. I have no idea what your cabinets look like, whether you have moulding on your walls, and couldn’t tell you one book on your bookshelf. Yeah…weird, huh? The single factor tying all of these things together is that they are primarily visual experiences…and I just seem to miss them. I just don’t see stuff.
In order to provide some contrast, here are a few other facts about myself. I can recount word-for-word entire conversations from high school, and most any conversation I’ve had in the past month. I can tell you exactly what songs were played (assuming I know the song) at pretty much every worship service I’ve been to in the six months. I remember the slogan of nearly every product I’ve ever “seen” a commercial for…though I couldn’t tell you what the product package looked like. I can explain to you how Catholic soteriology (view of sin) is the source of everything from the veneration of Mary to the selling of indulgences from a class I took three years ago. I could have walked you through every verb tense in Spanish by the end of my first semester in it (including the alternative imperfect subjunctive – ending in -ese instead of -iera). The main difference here is that these experiences/lessons were all auditory, verbal, or logical. Basically, if I hear, speak, or ponder something…I’ll remember it.
These were pretty interesting observations for me. However, as I pondered this more and began experimenting, I discovered that my ability to remember visual information is massively improved if attention has ever been drawn to those features verbally or logically. If you or someone else has ever literally spoken to me your eye or hair color, recounted to me a story about a specific coffee table item, or explained to me why you bought that shirt, I’ll almost never forget it. In essence, by simply having my attention drawn to a visual experience through a non-visual method, the whole game changes. This was a fascinating discovery for me…and it has helped in many areas of life as I’ve began to put it into practice.
In college, I would try to memorize things (be it scripture, programming functions, or spanish words) by simply reading them silently over and over. The reason, I feel, that this never really worked for me is that passive reading is a nearly 100% visual process. Given my tendencies…I retained absolutely nothing from it. In comparison, I remembered nearly every lecture I ever went to. For this reason, I rarely missed classes…but I also rarely read textbooks…and I always did pretty well in school.
So, recently, I’ve taken to trying to come up with a logical explanation or a verbal cue to help me when learning new things. If it’s scripture, I try to work my way thought not only what the words on the page are…but what they mean. I try to ponder synonyms with individual words to help me put a logical framework around the meaning of the passage. If nothing else, I’ll read out loud what I’m trying to remember. It’s been remarkable how much this has aided my retention. Along with this, I’ve forced myself to begin really looking at things around me. As I’ve done this…I began to notice all kinds of things I never had before: stickers (I’m the only person I know with absolutely no stickers on my guitar case or car), posters, graffiti, the little tree in the windows 7 logo on my desktop, earrings, dust, hubcaps, the different kinds of tree leaves, the fact that the headphones that came with my iPhone have a mic on them, and a host of other small details in the things around me. It’s really been weird for me to being seeing all the things I never really noticed in the least.
Given what I’ve learned, it’s obvious to me why I enjoy programming. It is one of the few disciplines that is perfectly suited to my learning styles. It is a highly logical discipline made up of (programming) languages that follow highly standardized linguistic patterns. This directly engages my two strongest learning styles. It also explains to me why I don’t enjoy the design side of the web. I simply do not currently have the propensity (whether through nature or nurture) to “see” or “pick up on” visual cues. Maybe it’s because my father and mother are both very logical. Maybe it’s because I’ve never taken an art class. Who knows? In any case…to anyone I’ve ever given a compliment on an outfit, accessory piece, paint job, etc…congratulations! You somehow managed to break through my 0% visual nature and truly stand out. To all the guys and girls out there who put in the extra time to really make themselves or their stuff look good…I’m starting to finally appreciate it.