Visual event-related potential studies supporting the validity of VARK learning styles' visual and read/write learners

Adv Physiol Educ. 2016 Jun;40(2):206-12. doi: 10.1152/advan.00081.2015.


The validity of learning styles needs supports of additional objective evidence. The identification of learning styles using subjective evidence from VARK questionnaires (where V is visual, A is auditory, R is read/write, and K is kinesthetic) combined with objective evidence from visual event-related potential (vERP) studies has never been investigated. It is questionable whether picture superiority effects exist in V learners and R learners. Thus, the present study aimed to investigate whether vERP could show the relationship between vERP components and VARK learning styles and to identify the existence of picture superiority effects in V learners and R learners. Thirty medical students (15 V learners and 15 R learners) performed recognition tasks with vERP and an intermediate-term memory (ITM) test. The results of within-group comparisons showed that pictures elicited larger P200 amplitudes than words at the occipital 2 site (P < 0.05) in V learners and at the occipital 1 and 2 sites (P < 0.05) in R learners. The between-groups comparison showed that P200 amplitudes elicited by pictures in V learners were larger than those of R learners at the parietal 4 site (P < 0.05). The ITM test result showed that a picture set showed distinctively more correct responses than that of a word set for both V learners (P < 0.001) and R learners (P < 0.01). In conclusion, the result indicated that the P200 amplitude at the parietal 4 site could be used to objectively distinguish V learners from R learners. A lateralization existed to the right brain (occipital 2 site) in V learners. The ITM test demonstrated the existence of picture superiority effects in both learners. The results revealed the first objective electrophysiological evidence partially supporting the validity of the subjective psychological VARK questionnaire study.

Keywords: electroencephalography; event-related potential; intermediate-term memory test; picture superiority effect; recognition task; visual-auditory-read/write-kinesthetic.

MeSH terms

  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Reading*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Students, Medical*
  • Writing*
  • Young Adult