Insights into Visual Intelligence

Visual intelligence is a relatively new area of study with two major components: visual-spatial and visual-object.

  • Visual-spatial ability is widely accepted as a dimension of intelligence and is included in most tests that measure intelligence.
  • Visual-object ability continues to be studied and may also have the attributes required to be characterized as a dimension of overall intelligence.

In her book, Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication, Ann Marie Barry writes that visual intelligence:

  • suggests the ability to think in different, more abstract, and more perceptually oriented ways, as our linear logic fails us in the presence of overpoweringly beautiful, violent, or political images.
  • implies an integrated perceptual awareness of mediated visual messages – one which permeates all of our thinking – and a mental alertness to the role of media within the whole spectrum of experience.

Everything you see is your brain’s interpretation of reality. For instance, your brain may determine that a shiny, fresh apple sitting on the kitchen table is edible. Your brain may also determine that a painting of that same apple is not edible. The fact that you can tell the difference between these two apples is a reflection of visual intelligence.

The brain processes associated with visual intelligence are so integral to human functionality and survival that they occupy nearly half of the cerebral cortex. Your brain automatically processes and interprets what you see based on your lifetime of experiences.

If, as a small child you were bitten by a large black dog, then as an adult you may feel uncomfortable when you see a large black dog. This is your visual intelligence (and common sense) telling you to be careful.

From their 2010 research exploring visual ability and intelligence, Olesya Blazhenkova and Maria Kozhevnikov describe:

  • Visual intelligence: one’s ability to process information about the visual appearances of objects and their pictorial properties (such as shape, color and texture).
  • Visual-spatial ability: represents a number of related subcomponents (such as spatial visualization, spatial relations) that have to do with how individuals deal with materials presented in space, or with how individuals orient themselves in space.

This research provides “insights” into “Eye-Q”!

This is the first section of my article titled: Enhancing Your Visual Intelligence. You can view/download the full version (free) on my website:


About Brenda Hoddinott
Award-winning artist and author; illustrator, art educator, curriculum designer, co-owner of, owner of Drawspace Publishing, and retired forensic artist Brenda has developed art curricula and taught multidisciplinary arts since 1980. During her 25-year career as a forensic artist, Brenda worked with diverse criminal investigative agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Department of National Defense, private investigative agencies, and municipal police departments. Brenda and her partner John live in the suburbs of Halifax, Nova Scotia with their two SPCA rescue dogs: Timber the Huskador and Katie the Pitweiler. Their blended human family includes five adult children and two grandchildren. Books by Brenda Hoddinott include: 2012: Introduction to Contour Lines (Drawspace Publishing) 2012: Introduction to Drawing (Drawspace Publishing) 2011: Illustrated Dictionary of Art-Related Terms (Drawspace Publishing) 2010: Getting Started with Drawing (Drawspace Publishing) 2004: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Drawing People Illustrated (Alpha Books) 2003: Drawing for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, Inc.)

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