Instructional Design

3 Reasons Why Your Brain Loves Animation for Learning

“Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation.” -Walt Disney

At first glance, the decision to go with animation over live-action training makes sense from a business perspective. It’s obviously much less expensive than hiring a subject matter expert, and it gives you the chance to create branded assets specific to your organization.

But animation’s benefits go way beyond business and deep into the way your learners’ brains respond to different types of stimulation.

Did you know that 70% of all your sensory receptors are in your eyes?

And… almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing!

Certain neurological processes make animation a no-brainer for making sure learners absorb, recall, and retain the information shown on the screen. In fact, what might have seemed like a smart move for your organization might actually be the best choice for your learners. If you have a current learning project and want our team to help you figure out the best way to bring it to life connect with us here.

Here are 3 reasons why investing in animated learning experiences can help catalyze retention and behavior change.

1. Animation Directs and Demands Attention

What happens when someone points up at the sky? Chances are that you’ll–you guessed it–look up at the sky. Animation functions for the brain in a similar way. When compared to a live action or photorealistic method, it’s much easier to direct learner attention using the simplistic and graphic foundation of animation. You can visually tell the learner “Look at this!” rather than hoping the learner knows where to focus his attention or identify the important factors in a scenario or picture.

That’s because the brain is better trained to look for and understand simpler images. Simple images free the brain’s processes so it spends less time and effort identifying important factors and more time storing important information away for later recall. So while animated images are often less complicated than an acted scene or a talking head, the brain prefers the “shortcut” of an image that shows exactly what’s important, where to look, and where to focus attention.

2. Visual Metaphors Boost Brain Engagement

Humans use metaphors as a part of storytelling for communication every single day, and it’s not just to tell a tall tale. In fact, you might call metaphors the official language of the brain. If someone tells you that they had a “rough day,” they’re obviously not explaining how the day felt physically, but they’re using a physical attribute to help you imagine how the day felt emotionally. This allows the brain to assign other senses to the information: Not only hearing, but imagining the physical sense of touch as well.

Now, relate this phenomenon to animated training videos: Instead of simply hearing the information, the learner sees a character in a metaphorical situation that helps create stronger connections in the brain. It’s a more “hands-on” method of learning that doesn’t actually involve the hands at all. Animation helps learners relate information to existing knowledge already stored in the brain; the same way metaphors allow a listener to more closely experience how something looked or felt.

3. People Learn Better From Words and Pictures, Rather Than Just Words Alone

Richard E. Mayer, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, created principles he discovered through his work around multimedia learning. The findings show that people learn better from multimedia when it is designed in a way that is consistent with how the human mind works, and consistent with research-based principles. You have to understand the mind to know how to integrate animation, because it’s also very easy to use graphics ineffectively.

One 2007 study found that not only did narrated animations cause better recall, but they improved overall long-term retention in biology topics. Whether it’s a whiteboard or a hyper-relatable animated scenario, animations tell the brain where to look and what to absorb, creating shortcuts to better overall retention. By helping your learners pay better attention to the right stuff, your smart business move to include animation becomes a genius play for better training effectiveness.