Our Speedy Brains

posted on January 8th 2016 in Data Talk with 0 Comments /

Yesterday, in our local library I noticed a new section of books in the children’s area. Ten shelves were filled with books sporting colorful spines, and the sign above them read “Graphic Novels”. When I pointed the area out to my 7- and 11-year old daughters, they went charging over and immediately found a number of books that appealed to them. While they settled into chairs and dove into their finds, I chatted with my favorite librarian, who noticed how my kids were pulled right into their graphic novels. I expressed my surprise that so many books of this genre exist and that they had so quickly grabbed my kids’ attention. The librarian pointed me to a Publishers Weekly article, “How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library”.1 The article sites one school district where graphic novels make-up 3% of their library’s collection but account for 30% of their circulation. Wow! That’s a handful of books that are drawing in more than their fair share of readers. And it’s not just kids who are gravitating towards graphic literature; the article explains that Columbia University, Michigan State and even the Library of Congress are rapidly expanding their collections as more and more adult readers gravitate towards these books that rely highly on visual content to express their messages.

The more I thought about the rising popularity of this apparently very engaging genre, the more it started to make perfect sense to me. Human brains love visual images and much of our brain’s sensory cortex is devoted to vision. We are terrific at easily and quickly comprehending relationships that are presented visually. Check out the below infographic from www.columnfivemedia.com

Data Visualization 1

Finding the outliers above happens in the blink of an eye. Imagine if the same information was presented in words or numbers instead of simple shapes and colors. Processing time would go up for sure, just like it does in the next graphic.

Data Visualization 2

It’s no wonder graphic novels are on the rise when you consider how much our brains appreciate a graphical image.

Have you tried reading a text or story that is more visual than word-based? Did your brain thank you for the quickly interpreted content?



1 – Heidi MacDonald, “How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library,” http://publishersweekly.com, (May 3, 2013)


Written by Jamie Clark.

Jamie Clark works in business support for eClinical Solutions and has a background in psychology. She is passionate about helping guide effective decision-making through the use of data visualization.


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