Visual sequential memory activities

Updated June 13, 2017

Visual sequential memory involves more than just one cognitive process. To learn and recall visual information in a specific sequence or order, the brain must exercise good attention, processing speed and have the ability to plan. Since all of these skills are required for visual sequential memory, exercises that train that ability should touch on each of these domains.

Visual Attention

In his widely used IQ test, the Wechsler Scale of Adult Intelligence, psychologist David Wechsler includes sophisticated tests of visual attention. The tasks in Wechsler's test involve quick visual sequencing while at the same time requiring attention to the visual details of the task. To create a test similar to Wechsler's, draw four different basic shapes on a piece of paper. Then flip through a magazine, crossing off as many of the same shapes as possible in two minutes. This task requires that the shapes be held in visual working memory while visual attention is strengthened by scanning each page quickly and thoroughly.

Visual Processing Speed

Part of visual sequential recall involves quick and efficient processing of new visual information. When psychologists want to test processing speed, they often use tasks that involve copying a complex design as quickly as possible and then asking the subject to recreate the design from memory. To do this at home, have a friend choose a geometric design then have him time you copying it, giving you no more than five minutes to do so. Then try and recreate the design from memory. A tip here involves choosing a logical sequence, when making the copy, as this will make recall easier.

Planning and Strategy Formation

Planning and strategy formation are an important part of visual recall because remembering random visual information is difficult. On the Delis Kaplan Executive Functioning System, which is a set of tests that examine executive functions, there are measures that involve visual planning. These tests ask subjects to build complex designs in certain sequences as quickly as possible. At home, try building various patterns with playing cards or dominoes and then try to recreate them from memory. As spatial planning and strategy formation become stronger, so will visual recall.

Complex Tasks

The most complex tasks for visual sequential recall involve using all of the executive functions at once. This includes visual scanning, shifting, sequencing and visual motor cognitive flexibility. Surprisingly, children's games use many of these skills simultaneously. Try getting a complicated connect-the-dots book and complete the puzzles under a time constraint. Mazes work well too, with the goal of improving speed after each trial. Since executive functioning underlies visual sequential memory, as these systems are engaged, visual recall will improve as well.

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About the Author

Nicolle Napier Ionascu began writing in 2007 for publications such as "Charlotte Parents Magazine." She is a professor and clinical psychologist near San Francisco. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Wright Institute of Professional Psychology.