©Arlene R. Taylor PhD 

A visual sensory preference means that what the individual takes in through sight typically registers most quickly and intensely in the brain. It gets their attention more quickly and may even require less energy to decode the data.

Some commonly displayed characteristics of visuals follow, including characteristics that may be observed in children based on their individual sensory preference. Use these as general guidelines for discussion, remembering that each brain is as different as the person’s thumbprint and you may be more aware of one system than another at any given moment depending on the environment in which you find yourself.

Characteristics of Visual Preference

  • alt Use visual words and metaphors (e.g., I see what you mean, picture this, the light just went on, it’s crystal clear to me, she talked until she was blue in the face, do you see what I mean?)
  • Have a higher-pitched voice and often speak rapidly
  • May breathe shallowly or hold their breath at times while thinking
  • Draw pictures in the air with arms/hands
  • React faster and/or more intensely to visual stimuli
  • The brain responds more quickly and intensely to visual stimuli

Visual Children Summary

  • Like pets that are interesting to watch and may prefer colorful, attractive toys that move
  • Food must look right (e.g., may dislike beets and mashed potatoes blending into each other on plate)
  • May be afraid of the dark or shadows
  • May fear videos, movies, and pictures they perceive as scary
  • Appearance is very important (e.g., may be bothered by tattered, worn, mended, or outmoded clothes)
  • Often sensitive to things they see in the environment (e.g., facial expressions, shadowing on the wall)
  • Tend to feel nurtured/loved by positive visual stimuli (e.g., visually pleasing environments, affirming eye contact or facial expressions).
  • May be bruised by lack of eye contact, angry facial expressions, visually unpleasant surroundings, lack of things to look at
  • Often learn most quickly by seeing (watching) how something is done

Visual Sensory Preference versus Visualizing

What is the difference between a person having a visual sensory preference and being able to visualize? Some individuals who visualize easily also have a visual sensory preference. Others may visualize easily but have either an auditory or a kinesthetic sensory preference.

Having a visual sensory preference means that visual stimuli typically register more quickly in your brain than either auditory or kinesthetic sensory stimuli, although there might be specific situations when you are more aware of auditory (symphony program) or kinesthetic (eating Thanksgiving dinner) stimuli.

The term visualizing describes an ability to create internal mental pictures. This is different from possessing a visual sensory preference. Most people can train themselves to visualize, although an individual with biochemical preference in the right frontal lobe of the cerebrum may be able to hone this ability to a more competent degree (refer to Thinking Process Preference section for additional information).

Likewise most people can train themselves to be more observant regardless of sensory preference, although it may be more energy intensive for a nonvisual. Having said that, based on your brain lead you may be more or less aware of “details.” If you have a frontal right brain lead (e.g., the FR pays attention to when things are different or changing) you may enter a room and sense that something is different, although if you don’t have a visual sensory preference you may need to have the details pointed out to you....

If you have a visual sensory preference, and have been taught that there is one right way for things to “look” in order to meet societal or family expectations, you may want your person or your environment to look a specific way. This means that if you have a frontal right brain lead you might be much more concerned that your “stacks” are lined up in a visually pleasing way, as compared to what might be important to you if you have a different brain lead.

If you have both a visual sensory preference and a lead in the frontal right cerbral division (e.g., thought to be the home of visualizing) you may be very concerned about appearances, especially if you grew up absorbing expectations about the importance of how things look. This is not good or bad. Different individuals simply have very different perceptions and expectations.