Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 127 - April 2016 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 4 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,013 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book ‘Brilliant Speed Reading’.

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Welcome to the April issue of The Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month we have an article on why Mind Maps use curvilinear branches. It is not as simple as you may think. As usual, we have our regular features of Quote of the month and what I’m up to.


April's Quote of the Month

"The good, of course,
is always beautiful,
and the beautiful never lacks proportion."

~ Plato

More quotes here



What's Phil Up To?

Phil Chambers

My apologies for the lateness of the Newsletter this month. This is due to the fact that I spent the first two weeks of April in beautiful Henely-on-Thames teaching the ThinkBuzan Licensed Instructor courses in Memory, Speed Reading and Mind Mapping.

I was very honoured to be awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Companionate of the White Swan by the Princely House of Kasperski herb Labedz in London on April 15th. This was presented by 2016 Brain of the Year winner, His Serene Highness Prince Marek Kasperski.

I am looking forward to speaking at the Worldwide Transformational Summit in May. This will be recorded and broadcast via the web in July. Please take a look at the website and sign up for free. More details below.


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Why do Mind Maps use Curvilinear Branches?


In this article I aim to explore the structure of Mind Mapping from a practical point of view. Too often Mind Mapping is misunderstood as an arty, self-indulgent, childish exercise in colouring in. When I ask delegates on courses why Mind Maps use curvilinear branches they often confidently come up with the following, mainly emotive or artistic, statements:

Whist all these statements are true, and a very important component of Mind Mapping, there are two fundamental, pragmatic reasons why Mind Maps use curvilinear branches.

1) Visual Variety

German psychologist, Hedwig Von Restorff showed that items which differ from surrounding data stand our in our memoires and are recalled more easily. Curvilinear branches introduce visual variety to your Mind Map. Straight or angular branches give rise to uniformity and monotony. This leads to poor recall and ultimately to confusion. Since one straight branch is much the same as another, as complexity grows it becomes more and more difficult to discern patterns and meaning from the Mind Map. This is disastrous for your thinking. You get lost in an ever more dense maze of lines.

The organic, multiple-curving nature of the main Basic Ordering Idea branches, connected to the central image allows further scope for a distinctive and hence memorable structure. Tony Buzan explains this well, “When a Mind Map branch is completed, it has a unique shape. This unique shape can then trigger the memory of the information in that branch. For more advanced mnemonic thinkers, such shapes can become ‘living pictures’, dramatically enhancing the probability of recall.”

2) Use of Space

The branches of a mature tree are an ideal analogy for a Mind Map. Trees survive by harnessing energy from sunlight to produce glucose from carbon dioxide and water in photosynthesis. The greater the surface area of leaves receiving sunlight the more energy is absorbed. The structure of the tree is a masterpiece of evolution giving the best solution of exposing the canopy to light.

Mathematical rules govern the position of leaves to minimise shading from those above in a process called phyllotaxis. It is fascinating that nature has arrived at a system based on the Fibonacci series (1,1,2,3,5,8,13… where each term is the sum or the preceding two) and the golden section in classical geometry where a:b = b:(a+b). Both the formula and consecutive terms in the series lead to approximately 1:1.618. This is supposedly the most visually pleasing aspect ratio. It is found in many natural forms from pine cones to shells and is used in art, design and architecture.

Golden ratio

A Mind Map needs to efficiently use space without overlapping branches so it is logical that it has adopted a similar solution to the tree. The simple Mind Map below shows how space is utilised better by curves. Straight lines very quickly start to collide and close off the development of ideas whereas curves allow many more initial ideas and subsequent deeper levels of branching. Angular branches are marginally better than straight lines in their use of space. However, they are still inferior to curvilinear branches.

Mind Map of use of space

Another benefit or organic main branches is that they allow you to easily flow into empty spaces making use of ‘virgin real estate’ on the page. The effective use of space is often a challenge for Mind Mapping beginners. Of course, Mind Mapping software can, to a large extent, circumvent this issue by employing anti-collision ‘smart’ layout and the ability to reposition branches.

Curvilinear branches are not some frivolous aesthetic whim arising from a desire to beautify your Mind Map but a necessary, practical cornerstone of effective Mind Mapping. As Tony Buzan says the Mind Map Laws are there for a reason and are based on psychological study. They should be accepted, applied and, only after having practised several hundred ‘pure’ Mind Maps, adapted. Ignore the laws at your peril!

That’s it for this month. Look out for the next newsletter in May.

Best Wishes