By Andrew Angus on May 26, 2011

What we know about learning and the brain explains why simple explanatory videos are powerful. And by tapping into proven psychological theories, business owners and web video producers can increase a video’s effectiveness at reaching its audience.

There are limits to working memory capacity

In his famous 1956 paper, “The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information,” we learn from that George A. Miller that , similar to the RAM of a computer,  our brain’s working memory has a limited capacity (recently, researchers in Sweden have uncovered more details about this “bottleneck” to learning).

When a new idea comes into your mind, you have to work on it a bit before you store it away in your long-term memory. More specifically, you have to make sense of it by connecting it with other thoughts you’ve already stored, a process called elaborative rehearsal.

Elaborative rehearsal is a cognitive process where your brain makes meaning of (encodes) new information by attaching it to prior knowledge storied in your long-term memory.

So you can imagine that if new ideas continue to pour in while your brain is busy making connections and elaborating on something that’s already there, there’s no way those new thoughts are going to “stick.” You’re either going to disrupt the first process – meaning the first idea won’t get stored in long-term memory – or you’re going to have to let the new ideas go by.

How can we apply this knowledge in making animated explainer videos for the web?

If you want your viewers to think of you the next time they’re in the market for what you’re offering, they’d better remember what they see in your animated web video! Here are two key ways to use what we know about the limits of working memory.

1. Keep your video scenes simple

In every single second of your video, include only the most relevant auditory and visual information. Remember that ANY non-essential information will make unnecessary demands on your viewer’s working memory and prohibit him or her from properly processing your information for storage in long term memory.

For animators and others on the production team, that may mean reigning in your creativity. Because no matter how cool something may look or sound, unless it’s connected to the key message in that snippet of the video, it’s a detraction and it’s working against you. That includes everything from the smallest brushstroke to the shortest word to the snappiest sound effect.

2. Keep the pace of your video steady

Working memory is the part of your brain that’s online and active while you’re doing something – like your workbench. You wouldn’t want a bunch of extra tools or building supplies flying at you while you’re concentrating on running the jigsaw.

The pacing of your video is very important, so that new ideas and information are flowing at a rate so that the viewer has time to assimilate them before the next idea arrives. Otherwise, nothing will get through to long-term memory. And that’s where you want this information about your business to be – in long-term memory.

So if you want the content of your animated web video to be remembered, less is more.

If you enjoyed this article and want to know more start at the beginning of our three part series on Marketing and the Mind.

 

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