Why Our Brains Prefer Symbols to Words

Ordinary symbols like &?!#@$ prove to be remarkably unforgettable, as per recent research.

Conducted by the University of Waterloo, the new study aimed to explore the memorability of symbols compared to words conveying the same meanings.

“This breakthrough research sheds light on how humans retain graphic symbols and logos,” said Myra Fernandes, co-author and Cognitive Neuroscience professor at Waterloo.

Symbols hold particular value due to their potential as advertising logos and their expedient communication through emojis. Our studies delving into symbol memory offer insights into optimizing retention and refining communication.

Over five studies, the team surveyed more than 1100 adults to dissect symbols’ role in memory. In these studies, participants encountered either symbols or their word equivalents, like ‘$’ or ‘dollar’, and were assessed on their recollection of symbols and words.

Across all the studies, it became evident that participants were more adept at memorizing symbols compared to words bearing the same meanings.

Brady Roberts, lead author and PhD candidate in Cognitive Neuroscience, suggests that symbols might be more memorable due to their ability to give tangible visuals to abstract concepts.

Abstract ideas like love can be challenging to visualize, but symbols provide a representation for the concept – like a heart denoting love – rendering the abstract notion more tangible and thus easier to remember.

Roberts further posits that symbols could also be more memorable because of their uniqueness and their tendency to signify a single concept, unlike words that can encompass various meanings. Consider the play symbol [▷].

This symbol has a solitary meaning: initiating a piece of media. However, its word counterpart ‘play’ encompasses a multitude of definitions, such as a game or a theatrical performance, and presents numerous synonyms like commence, begin, and start.

Source NeuroScienceNews

Author: Neurologica