Game of Thrones and Visual Communication- Sansa Stark

[Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t read the books or seen the series, it is highly recommend that you do.  I haven’t read the books, and this is my personal opinion and observation of Sansa Stark from the Game of Thrones up to Season 3, Episode 9.]

We’ll first talk about the TV show, but we will tie this all up and talk about visual communications.
Skip the TV show bit and read about the Sally-Anne Test and Visual communication

Part 1: Game of Thrones and character of Sansa Stark. (Somewhat spoiler-y)

I must admit, I didn’t like Sansa Stark for a while. She struck me as a bratty pre-teen princess whose sole purpose in life is to marry a prince or a dashing knight.  Even her father says, “Daughters are harder than wars!” Her girlishness is accentuated through Arya, her younger tomboy sister, who rather play with swords than to do needlework. While Arya is one of the most popular character in the series, Sansa usually makes the list for least popular characters.

Sansa is often called dumb and naive by the Game of Thrones fans. She trusts characters who are most untrustworthy and distrusts characters who are interested in her well-being.

Sansa Stark Game of Thrones

I painted Sansa for fun. Graphite and Photoshop

Here’s the dialogue that struck me was in the 8th episode from season 3 titled, “Second Sons”, between her and Tyrion:


I just wanted to say…I know how you feel.


I doubt that very much my lord.


You’re right. I have no idea how you feel. You have no idea how I feel.

Sansa is right. No one knows how she feels, because deep down, we’re all alone in our mind. One can only assume what or how someone else is feeling. It’s very easy to assume that others know what we learn and know by casting our own experiences in life.

What the viewers of the show (including myself until recently) often forget, is that the viewers know far more about the characters than the characters know about each other.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at the Sally-Anne test.

Part 2: The Sally-Anne Test. Can you pass this?

The Sally-Anne test is used in developmental psychology for young children to study when the human mind begins to understand that other people have their own minds with different sets of knowledge from their own.

In this article we will talk briefly about the theory of mind. What we know is not automatically shared with others without explicit communication.

This is how the Sally-Anne test works:


Meet Sally. Meet Anne. Sally has a basket, and Anne has a box.


Sally gets a marble, and she puts it in her basket. Anne sees Sally put the marble in her basket.



Sally leaves her basket to go play outside.


Naughty Anne! She gets the marble from Sally’s basket and puts it her box.


Sally returns from outside and decides to play with her marble. Now comes the million dollar question:


If you said that Sally will look in her basket, then congratulations! You passed the test.

Most people understand that Sally doesn’t have access to the information Anne and the viewer know. How is Sally to know that Anne took the marble without having superpowers to see what is happening to her basket?

—and now back to GoT for a little bit. If you don’t want spoilers or don’t care, you can skip this part.—-

Lord Baelish is a scheming traitor who loves chaos. Tyrion is more than a drunk guy that hangs around harlots. The Hound can be sympathetic to the Starks. Lady Margery and Lady Olenna were scheming to win the north. The viewers know these things because we explicitly got to see these things in action.

For the most part, Sansa didn’t have access to these information. How is Sansa to know about Tyrion and Shae’s relationship when even Cersei couldn’t guess correctly? Sansa saw the Hound’s brother chop a horse’s head off, and he is fiercely loyal to evil Joffrey. Lord Baelish is her mother’s childhood friend. Lady Margaery is about the only person who acts kindly to Sansa who told her they should be friends.

I think the viewers forget to put themselves in Sansa’s shoes.  Expecting Sansa to understand how evil Lord Baelish is, that is similar to expecting Sally to know to look in Anne’s box for the marble.

—End of spoilers—–

Oftentimes I run across this similar problem: I use Photoshop and talk about human anatomy almost every day of my life. When I find that people don’t know as much about Photoshop or human anatomy, I get confused for a second– because some of the terminology and techniques are second nature to me. Me being somewhat of a Photoshop guru does not mean that every illustrator I speak to knows as much about Photoshop as I do.

As we communicate with others on a daily basis, we must remember that others have different mindsets from ours. No one has lived our lives except ourselves.

So the question is, what is one good way to make sure that everyone is up to the same page on a certain subject?

You guessed it, use pictures!

Near the beginning of the blog post, there’s a quick image of Sansa Stark as portrayed by a very talented actress named Sophie Turner.  Here it is again:

Sansa Stark Game of Thrones

Even if you haven’t seen the series or could not care less about it, by simply looking at it lets you know that Sansa is a young female human character with red hair. So, next time you are browsing or flipping channels, you sort of have an idea of what this particular character looks like. Using pictures do not just stop at popular TV shows, but could be used to communicate complex ideas and theories. You can see some of my illustrations that teach different concepts and facts here.

So what do YOU know that other people don’t? How would you be able to distinguish what you know versus what others know? How do you show, not tell your expertise to a group of individuals who are not familiar with your area of expertise? Please leave a comment in the section below. You’re also invited to discuss about Sansa’s character, but please keep the spoilers off from the comments. I’m looking forward to the season finale tonight!

Further reading:

Rolling Stone interview with actress Sophie Turner

“In Defense of Sansa Stark” from

Sally-Anne Test and the theory of Mind

About Ikumi Kayama

Studio Kayama’s Founder, Ikumi Kayama is an award-winning medical & scientific illustrator who helps scientists and doctors how to be heard and understood and how to express the value of what they do through accurate and useful illustrations. Ikumi's mission is to make science relevant and accessible to everyone using accurate visuals. She also gives PowerPoint Design Tip seminars for the scientists and various illustration technique courses for the artists. Come say hello and follow Ikumi on facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google+ .