The most popular
Learning Styles


Written by Anderson Niu

September 1st, 2020

“Learning styles” – Have you ever heard this term before?

If you had the chance to learn a new skill, such as “how to be a better negotiator” or “how to never have a creative-block again”, which option would you pick to learn that new topic?

a) A 10 minutes step-by-step video tutorial 

b) A 20 page book or e-book with some cool pictures

c) A 20 minutes podcast interviewing an expert

d) A 1 hour session with a specialist

e) Take hour of your day to call and ask people about it

Notice that all of the options above can effectively teach you something, but each one of them has a specific way to deliver the information. 

The truth is, people learn in different ways, and each group of thinkers has its own rhythm to process and learn new information. These characteristics are called “learning styles”. 

According to many researchers, scientists, and educators, learning styles are basically a person’s preferred way of learning.

The Learning Cycle

I believe that we all have unique skill sets that are a result of many factors throughout our journey. However, despite our particularities, we are social beings, and we thrive to cultivate the sense of belonging.

In other words, we end up adopting a certain set of behaviors to attend our society’s rules, expectations, and social groups, according to the preferences we develop over time.

Regardless of our learning style or what kind of thinker we are, the learning process is actually an infinite cycle, and we always go through all of its steps when we deal with information. The difference is in what we do in each of its steps:

This graphic model of the learning cycle is actually applied in many of the theories I am going to show you here in this article, especially the first 4 models, and I think it perfectly represents our learning process. 

Each one of us has a natural preference for the method in which we receive, process, understand, and create information. With this particular idea in mind, it eventually became a challenge for intellectuals to understand how people could improve their own learning capacity; therefore, for many years now, several theories and learning style models have been developed to prove it.

Many scientists have studied the learning styles by focusing on the sides of the brain. Other models were created later based on personality traits and behavior patterns, as they had more data collected over the years to support their research. 

Here I bring a compilation of the most popular learning style models used nowadays, and I show the outputs and conclusions I get from each one of them in our approach regarding the field of creativity development.

1)    The 4MAT learning styles model

Created by Bernice McCarthy, the 4MAT model identifies 4 learning styles by analyzing people’s decisions using the learning cycle schematics below:


In her studies, Bernice analyzes 4 main questions of “why”, “what”, “how”, and “if”, and then focuses on 8 steps to process the information. Each color of her model represents one learning style:

  1. Innovative: Creative minds who are constantly looking for personal development and also for new connections. They prefer cooperative learning and brainstorming
  2. Analytic: People who need facts to understand concepts and processes. To learn, they prefer to analyze data on their own or lectures
  3. Common-sense: Usually more interested in how things work, these thinkers prefer concrete experimental learning activities
  4. Dynamic: They rely heavily on their own intuition, preferring self-discovery tasks, such as games

According to our approach and methodology of mapping creativity traits, the main focus of her theory is on the connections people make to come up with new ideas. It is more related to the process of creating new concepts than to the process of understanding the information received.

Bernice points out some social aspects in her 4 styles, such as the preference for working in groups or independently. This characteristic is strongly connected with the level of commitment someone has in a task, as well as how attentive to details that person is.  

I am still collecting some data, but, so far, my research has shown that perfectionists tend to prefer working alone. They avoid working with people who can potentially jeopardize their productivity.

For instance, those perfectionists who are more communicative and proactive usually assume that people will slow them down. Moreover, they only feel comfortable working in groups if they are convinced that the other members are as committed as they are to finish the task.

2)    VAK learning styles model

The VAK model is extremely popular and explores one of the most common categorizations of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

It was created by Neil Fleming, an educational theorist who believed that individual learning styles depend on cognitive, emotional, and environmental factors, as well as our prior experience. In other words: everyone is different.

This is the reason why I like his theory, especially because it is a simple model that makes the concept easy to be understood with only 3 factors:

Visual: learners who prefer to learn by seeing stuff, whether they are videos, handouts, books, graphics, or even observing others doing something.

Auditory: learners who prefer to learn through listening and/or speaking, such as discussions, audiobooks, lectures, recordings, or reading out loud.

Kinesthetic: learners who prefer to learn through experience and hands-on tasks. In other words, anything that puts their bodies to move appeals more to them.

According to our approach, principles, and analysis regarding this model, the focus of this theory is on the first step of our thinking process, which is when we receive the information. It shows how people prefer to take in information to better retain it.

Just a reminder: Everyone learns through a combination of those 3, but the study points out which one of them is more effective for individuals.

Based on our studies…

  • Auditory learners are the fastest in terms of processing information and organizing the data collected.
    • A good example of auditory learners are our favorite Hollywood spies and heroes: in the movies, they receive a top-secret message of 5 minutes with massive spoken information containing addresses, codes, reasons why, names, pictures of the villain’s face, orientations, OMG! The message expires after played, they can’t replay it, and THEY REMEMBER EVERYTHING! Without even taking notes!! Whaaat…?! 
  • Visual learners are the most common type, and  they represent the average people’s speed in terms of understanding new information.
    • The main reason why the vast majority of us end up becoming visual learners is because of our traditional education system. It leads us to THE right answer, punishes  wrong answers, and uses lectures to teach more theories than applicable practices. Anyway, this is a discussion for another article.  :)
  • Kinesthetic learners are mostly adults, and the slowest information processors among the 3 types.
    • This happens because they take some time to understand the big picture first and, then, they spend more time to figure out the details as they try things out. In a nutshell, they have two learning cycles inside one. Crazy, isn’t it? (a learning inception)


Also known as “Experiential learning model”, Kolb’s theory defines 4 distinct learning styles by analyzing two dimensions: how people perceive information; and how people process information. 

It is quite similar to the 4MAT approach, once both use the same learning cycle schematics to understand the test takers and to define the results. The main difference between them lies in the name of the learning styles:

  • Convergers: learners who are fond of active experiments. They prefer to learn by solving problems, and they strive to find practical solutions for things that they understand.
  • Divergers: Imaginative learners who prefer to learn by brainstorming or observing. They like to spend some time reflecting about possibilities or seeking practical solutions for general problems.
  • Assimilators: Sequential learners who prefer abstract modeling and theoretical reasoning.
  • Accommodators: hands-on learners who rely on their feelings more than logical analysis. They prefer to learn through practical experience and active testing.

According to our approach, principles, and analysis regarding this model, the main focus of her theory is on the connections people make to come up with new ideas. It is more related to the process of creation than to the process of understanding.


The Honey and Mumford learning styles were developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford in 1986. Their work was built upon Kolb’s model, once they found that Kolb’s model had low validity in certain areas. Their learning styles are:

  • Activist: they are all about challenges and new experiences. They are personalities who love to learn new things, and they are great at short-term problem-solving.
  • Reflector: natural observers who prefer to see something happening first, so they can think about the best ways to act on that later. They need more time to make decisions and are cautious people.
  • Theorist: sequential learners that are fond of complex and logical theories, so they can break down the problems and analyze single aspects of it separately.
  • Pragmatist: active learners who like to apply everything they learn right away and keep trying until they get a satisfactory result. Give them a theory, and they will try to proof-check it.

According to our approach, principles, and analysis regarding this model, the main focus of this theory is on matching people’s preferred ways to receive information with the way they process that information for understanding. It is more related to the process of understanding than to the process of development of new concepts.  


The Felder-Silverman model is a little bit more complex and thorough than the previous models presented so far. It examines some specific personality traits that can influence our learning process:

  • Active: prefer to try things out and to work in groups
  • Reflective: prioritize reasoning over action, and prefer to work alone or with a familiar partner
  • Sensing: prefer concrete and practical thinking, and concerned with facts and procedures
  • Intuitive: prefer conceptual thinking, innovative, concerned with theories and meanings
  • Visual: prefer visual representations
  • Verbal: prefer written and spoken explanations
  • Sequential: prefer linear and organized thinking, and learn in small incremental steps
  • Global: prefer holistic and systemic thinking, and learn in big chunks of information.

According to our approach and methodology regarding this model, the main focus of Felder-Silverman’s approach is on psychological aspects that affect our information processing. It is related to the core mindset of personality profiles, and it explores some behavioral patterns.


Gregorc’s theory is based on two groups: perception and organization. In his studies, each one of these groups represent two opposite continuums:


  • (C)  Concrete reasoning (learn through facts and logical reasoning)
  • (A) Abstract reasoning (learn through possibilities and theoretical reasoning)


  • (S) Sequential ordering (learn through ordered and incremental information)
  • (R) Random ordering (learn through understanding the big picture first)

By combining these continuums, Gregorc created his 4 learning styles, but over time he found out that no one fits 100% under on only style.

We actually use some of Gregorc’s concepts as an inspiration for our creative mind mapping approach. After all, the creative process involves both spectrums of his theory, and they help us to not only understand and convey information, but also to create a better environment to foster innovation.

Well, there you go. The 6 methods presented in this article are currently the most popular learning style models.

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