April 10, 2018
Classic Learning Research in Practice – Sensory Channels – Keep the Learners Attention
April 10, 2018
Classic Learning Research in Practice – Sensory Channels – Keep the Learners Attention
Lifelong Learning in the Corporate World
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Once the learner feels connected, we need to maintain his attention and avoid multitasking. This can be done by channeling your content towards all of the learners senses: Iconic, Echoic, Haptic … Gustatory, Olfactory. Sensory input remains useless until it is processed by the brain where it becomes perception. Your eyes do not see; your ears do not hear, they just collect input from the environment. It is your brain that sees and hears.


Perception starts at the sensory input, in the bottom-up processing approach (Gibson’s Theory). The sensory neural signals have their first stop in the primary sensory cortex. Each sense has its own area of primary sensory cortex. So, neural signals coming from our eyes, carrying information about vision, travel to the primary visual cortex (Iconic Memory 30%). Neural signals coming from our ears travel to the primary auditory cortex (Echoic Memory 2%). From the primary sensory cortex, sensory information is then sent to the secondary sensory cortex for further processing. And finally, sensory information from all the secondary sensory cortex’s are passed on to the multi modal association cortex, here information from different sensory organs and other areas of the brain are combined into one ‘neural multimedia theater’ where your senses become perceptions. This bottom-up approach enables students to process in parallel what they see, hear, feel, taste and smell.

The brain is capable of parallel processing, but that doesn’t imply that the mind is capable of it too! Once the perceptions are made available in the working memory the learner becomes a serial processing unit without the ability for real multitasking. When a learner multitasks, he sets one task to active while all others are placed on hold. The faster you can switch between active and dormant tasks, the more efficient you will be in “multitasking”. This is why Multitasking will always come at the cost of a higher Extraneous Cognitive Load, and reduced learning or lower Germane cognitive load.

Sensory interaction can happen when one sense interacts with an other (smell & taste). But this  can lead to misinterpretation when senses conflict (The McGurk effect).

Top-down processing is defined as the development of pattern recognition through the use of contextual information (Richard Gregory). Sights, sounds, tastes, touch and smells are actively created by your brain, from incomplete information – so our perception does not always reflect reality, but is  driven by patterns, context, assumptions and expectations. This was well demonstrated with the dress.

As a learning professional it is important to get the full attention of the learner

  • To avoid Multitasking as this leads to reduced learning
  • Limit Top-Down Processing to avoid wrong perception

This can be done by stimulating all of the learners senses on one and the same topic

  • Prime is using unique visuals to stimulate the Iconic Memory as it spans 30% of the brains neurons while 60% of the brain is involved in vision.
  • Supported by a good narrative to stimulate the Echoic Memory
  • Adding user interaction to stimulate the Haptic Memory

Gustatory, Olfactory are hard to stimulate with today’s technology or you will need Smell-O-Vision and Taste-O-Vision.

The good news is that Captivate offers you a toolbox to keep the learners attention this toolbox contains a great library of unique visuals, fast narration with its TTS engine and a bucket load of interactive  components.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

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