Learning is an important experience for people of all ages. Research has shown there are a number of ways in which people retain and process information. While one literature review identified 71 different learning style models, we will be focusing on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Based on this, there are eight types of learning styles that everyone falls into.
The more you know about these different learning styles, the more prepared you will be to help yourself (or your children) learn a new skill, idea, language, or concept—no matter the study material.
What Are the Different Learning Types?
There are now eight official learning types and different ways you can learn as a student. There are no longer just seven learning styles! Here’s the updated list of learners:
We’ll now describe each in detail.
1. Visual (spatial)
As the name suggests, visual learners are those that learn best when they have images to help them process the information. This learning style requires the learners to first see what they’re expected to know. They may also need to map out their thoughts in order to process them better.
These are some of the most common characteristics of visual learners:
- Have good spatial awareness and sense of direction
- Can easily visualize objects, plans, and outcomes
- Like coloring, drawing, and doodling
- Have good color balance
- Are good at using maps and rarely get lost
For example, a visual learner in a writing class may process the information better by seeing a movie clip of how a film adapts the literature it was based on, instead of listening to the book being read aloud.
You are a visual learner if: You prefer pictures, images, and mind maps to help you process information.
2. Aural (auditory-musical)
Aural learning is used to classify those who respond primarily to sound and speech. Unsurprisingly, many musicians are aural learners. Auditory learners generally remember what their teacher says and readily participate in class. These are also individuals who respond best to things such as binaural beats.
- Find that certain music invokes strong emotions
- Enjoy listening to music in the background while learning
- Have a good sense of pitch or rhythm
- Skilled at oral reports and class presentations
- Able to work through complex problems by talking out loud
For example, a song that helps you remember the alphabetical order of all the states is a way to tap into aural learning styles.
You are an aural learner if: You prefer learning through rhythms or tend to use clever rhymes to remember something.
3. Verbal (linguistic)
Verbal learners learn best through the words they hear. Typically, they love both written and spoken word, excelling in both. These learners often go into public speaking, writing, journalism, and debating.
- Tend to flourish in reading and writing activities
- Ask questions and have an excellent verbal expression
- Often gifted at learning new languages
- Have a large vocabulary and enjoys learning new words
- Dislike silence and enjoy participating in study groups
For example, reading definitions of a word aloud or writing them down a few times, are ways for verbal learners to process information.
You are a verbal learner if: You need to read content out loud to learn something or prefer to have someone explain it to you so you can process it.
4. Physical (kinesthetic)
If you are someone who likes getting their hands dirty, then you are likely a physical learner. Physical learners are animated and they learn best by going through the motions of what they are learning.
- Have high levels of energy
- Notice and appreciate the physical world around them, such as textures
- Enjoy sports and exercise along with outdoor activities and working with their hands
- Have excellent motor memory (can duplicate something after doing it once)
- Perform well in art and drama
For example, if something is bothering you or you are trying to wrap your head around a concept, you would rather go for a run or walk than sit down and figure it out.
You are a physical learner if: You don’t learn something until you do it. You need to draw out your own diagrams or role-play to learn new information. You may also be constantly in motion and speak with your hands.
5. Logical (mathematical)
Most logical thinkers end up being engineers, mathematicians, or pursuing the sciences. They are the individuals who want to understand the reasons behind them and tend to enjoy games like chess and doing brainteasers.
- Classify and group information together to better understand it
- Perform complex calculations
- Create procedures for future use, after coming up with a solution to a problem
- Plan agendas and itineraries and even rank and number them
- Find a statistical study more appealing than analyzing literature or keeping a journal
For example, those who prefer making neat and organized lists while studying and extracting key points from the material are typically logical learners.
You are a logical learner if: You can learn something only when you understand the bigger picture, along with the logic, reasoning, and systems behind the concepts.
6. Social (interpersonal)
As the name suggests, social learners are true people persons. They often prefer direct involvement with others in group projects. They are stimulated by dialog and may seek out feedback from instructors. However, they may not be comfortable or perform best when required to work alone or on self-paced projects.
- Prefer to socialize after work or class, may want to join or form a study group outside of the classroom
- Enjoy playing group sports or participating in activities, such as speech, drama, and debate teams
- Bounce ideas off of others and work through issues in a group
- Listen well and are good at resolving conflicts
- Are often trusted by others for their advice
For example, when teachers assign group projects, it is often a way to appeal to social learners.
You are a social learner if: You prefer to work with other people and find you learn best in groups.
7. Solitary (intrapersonal)
Solitary learners are individuals who prefer to learn on their own. They are self-motivated and highly independent. They favor a quiet environment both in their personal and academic lives.
- Spend time on self-analysis
- Struggle in large crowds and noisy rooms
- Excellent self-management skills
- Journal, write, and record personal thoughts and events as a way to improve
- Like to set goals and make plans
For example, someone who reads self-help books to develop a deeper understanding of themselves is often a solitary learner.
You are a solitary learner if: You need to sit alone and study by yourself in order to retain information.
In many ways like kinesthetic learners, a naturalistic learner is the most recent addition to Gardner’s theory. These individuals are more in tune with nature. They use elements and patterns in the natural world to create products and solve problems.
- Categorize and catalog information easily
- Enjoy exploring outdoors
- Dislike learning unfamiliar topics with no connection to nature
- Are interested in subjects, such as biology, botany, and zoology
- Notice even subtle changes in their environments
For example, someone who prefers reading in a hammock or on a swing to a stuffy classroom and loves digging in the dirt is most probably a naturalistic learner.
You are a naturalistic learner if: You like to explore nature and spend time outdoors, getting your hands dirty.
How to Apply This Knowledge in Your Learning Routine
If you know what type of learner you mostly tend to be, you can start applying this to your everyday life, even if you’re no longer in school. While you can’t always ask someone in a meeting to sing a rhythmic song for you or to take the meeting out in your backyard, you can start using these techniques in your daily life to grasp new concepts faster and with greater ease.
There is no wrong way to learn. And even if it may seem strange to others, you need to play to your strengths when trying to learn new information, so that it would really stick. By being more aware of how it is that you learn, you may find that you develop interests you hadn’t thought of exploring before, start retaining information better, or that you finally remember new names and pick up skills faster than ever before.