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What Are Visual Spatial Skills?

By John Willis ; Updated April 18, 2017

Visual spatial skills are a set of cognitive functions often associated with a specific style of learning. Visual spatial thinkers are often referred to as right-brained. They're often artists or have artistic inclinations. They think in pictures and learn conceptually, not sequentially. Often, visual spatial thinkers struggle with linear concepts and sequential learning styles.

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Visual Thinking

Visual spatial skills include conceptualizing physical shapes. The shapes may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. Visual spatial thinkers can glean significant understanding of a shape with a relatively small amount of information, and the same is true for spatial distances and relationships. Visual spatial skills lend themselves to visual arts and sports. Visual spatial intelligence, for example, is important for basketball players, race car drivers and billiards players.

Acute Sensory Perception

Visual spatial thinkers often have acute sensory perception. Their sense of hearing, smell, taste and touch may all be heightened, providing them with abundant information about their physical world. Gathering additional information can be advantageous -- but it can also be overwhelming having the skill to translate more of your environment's information into usable stimuli.


Whereas left-brain or linear thinkers excel in sequential tasks such as logic and math, visual spatial thinkers often have what many call intuitive skills. These skills include making cognitive leaps from seemingly disparate things. There doesn't necessarily have to be a logical order or explanation for the understanding. Visual spatial thinkers can often connect dots, so to speak, by intuition.

Associated Personality Traits

Visual spatial thinkers can usually be identified not just by their cognitive skills but by their personality traits. In fact, the personality traits may even be a better indicator. Spatial thinkers are highly creative, often gifted people. They are extremely inquisitive, though they may have cognitive deficits in other areas. They may have social difficulties and be seemingly disorganized. One of the most notable signs of visual spatial thinkers is that they often have great difficulty with seemingly simple tasks but perform very complex conceptual tasks with ease.

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About the Author

John Willis founded a publishing company in 1993, co-writing and publishing guidebooks in Portland, OR. His articles have appeared in national publications, including the "Wall Street Journal." With expertise in marketing, publishing, advertising and public relations, John has founded four writing-related ventures. He studied economics, art and writing at Portland State University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

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