Which senses do you use most while learning? Do you use all your senses when you learn? What is the role of your taste and smell senses during a learning experience? 

The study of learning and its correlation to senses is fascinating to me. I have always thought of learning as an activity limited to our hearing, sight and touch senses. However, smell and taste have a role in learning. 

In this article, we will uncover the role of all senses in learning, understand how these senses enhance the experience and share actionable takeaways. 

The multisensory theory of learning states that when several senses are stimulated simultaneously, the learning experience is enriched. Young learners are provided images along with corresponding letters when they begin learning alphabets. Books have textures for grass, cotton to build association. 

Researchers have taken a step ahead and experimented with – more the senses, better the learning experience. While that research outcome is yet to be determined, there are other schools of thoughts that have already paved the way. 

Montessori education is a highly sought-after way of learning that prioritizes the learner. Their focus on sensory development is known world-wide. The curriculum, activity materials are designed to enhance the child’s understanding of their environments – shapes, sounds, tastes, smells and much more. 

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that using multisensory stimuli in the classroom can lead to better memory retention and recall. In the study, participants were presented with a list of words and were then asked to recall as many as possible. Some participants were presented with the words auditorily (through headphones), while others were presented with the words visually (on a computer screen), and others were presented with both visual and auditory stimuli simultaneously.

The results showed that participants who received multisensory input (both visual and auditory) had significantly higher levels of recall compared to those who received input through only one sense. The researchers suggested that this is because using multiple senses helps to create more robust and interconnected neural networks, which can lead to better memory retention and recall.

Overall, these studies suggest that learning with all your senses can lead to better engagement, attention, motivation, and memory retention. By using a variety of sensory inputs, educators can create a more holistic and engaging learning experience for their students.

How do we engage multiple senses in our learning experiences? Here are four actionable takeaways that you can begin with:

  1. Incorporate multisensory activities into your learning routine: Try to engage multiple senses when learning new information. For example, when studying vocabulary words, try to create visual associations with each word or say the word out loud while writing it down.
  1. Use technology to create a multisensory experience: Many educational apps and programs offer a combination of visual and auditory stimuli. Look for interactive programs that provide a multisensory learning experience.
  1. Experiment with different learning modalities: Everyone has different learning preferences. Try to experiment with different ways of learning, such as reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, or hands-on activities, to find out which works best for you. Mix and match these modalities to suit your needs. 
  1. Collaborate with others: Group learning activities can provide a multisensory experience, as they often involve discussion, debate, and collaboration. Working with others can help you to engage with the material in a more immersive and dynamic way.

Unlearning Thought

The more I learn about learning, it seems like building the most effective learning experience is like cycling on a tightrope. Won’t you agree?