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Why your attention sucks
    (mind-hacks to avert
    Death By PowerPoint)

            Chris Atherton

          School o...
your brain is lazy,
shallow, and easily
    distracted.
(but ultimately,
also hackable)
So, what do you do?




             http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephangeyer/3020487807/sizes/o/
thinking
    perception
         attention
            memory
University of Central
     Lancashire
Preston
Where is the
educational merit ...
• ... in row after row of bullet points?
• Students are expected to sit there for
  two...
education as endurance event




            http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/1800877044/
http://identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/


http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html
“why can’t education be
      like that?”
modern psychology




http://www.gentlemansemporium.com/webimages/gallery_1850_gents.gif
Gestalt grouping
   principles
continuity
similarity
proximity
9-dot problem
3

2       4




    1
                start here
there is no box!
we group objects faster
 based on proximity ...
... than we do based on
      colour or shape




     (Quinlan & Wilton, 1998)
for what/where
decisions, the brain
   hacks itself!
what/where pathways
              where?

                  visual
                 cortex


               what?
farming out tasks to
separate pathways buys
more processing power
“attentionomics”
the “magic number 7”
        (± 2)


       (Miller, 1956)
magic number 4 ?


    (Cowan, 2001)
subitization
subitization
subitization
max. working
memory load:
 4-5 things
working memory
capacity is limited
 — but hackable.
cognitive load
  = amount of work
needed to understand
 or learn something
intrinsic cognitive load:
how inherently difficult
      something is
C
    B

                    D   B       C
        A

                            A
F
                E
extraneous cognitive load:
 extra work imposed by
   the thinking/learning
       environment
A has a reciprocal relationship
            with B and with C.

B       C   B has a reciprocal relationship
            wi...
good communication
 is all about reducing
   extraneous load
the hack: farm out
work to the brain’s
different pathways
visual/auditory pathways

                      visual
                     cortex


auditory
 cortex
we LOVE audiovisual stimulation!




http://moviescreenshots.blogspot.com/
so why isn’t this any good?
does
                      pictures




   does language
(spoken or written)
Death by PowerPoint:

        bored
overloaded
... our research
study 1
(in the lab)
identical spoken
   presentations
about advertising
multiple choice
  questions
9. If an advertising campaign has 60 Gross
Rating Points (GRPs), the advert could
reach:                                  ...
... no difference
between groups
Essay answer
performance
What do you remember about the main part of the
 presentation? Please be useful to a product but
How advertising can
     ...
number of themes written about   * = significant difference
In other words, slides that look like this:




help students learn better than slides that look like this:
study 2
(in the lecture theatre)
Again, students either saw slides like this ...




... or slides like this:
multiple-choice
 performance
    = same
Essay answer
performance
significant (p < .05)


no. of themes written about
                              7
                              6
       ...
either ...

 (a) sparse slides challenge
 our attention less
and/or ...

 (b) sparse visuals make
 it easier to absorb stuff
less is more!



   max. working
   memory load:
    4-5 things
split the load

              pictures



words
make the brain’s native
 skills work for you
your brain is lazy,
shallow, and easily
    distracted.
(but ultimately,
also hackable)
finiteattentionspan.wordpress.com

    Twitter: @finiteattention
Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London
Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London
Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London
Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London
Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London
Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London
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Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London

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Slides from my talk at Presentation Camp London, held at the Salmon Centre in Bermondsey on Sun 17th Jan, 2010.

This presentation was adapted from my TCUK09 talk on about half an hour's notice as I hadn't planned to present anything at PCL1! Interesting experience :)

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Why Your Attention Sucks — Chris Atherton at Presentation Camp London

  1. 1. Why your attention sucks (mind-hacks to avert Death By PowerPoint) Chris Atherton School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire
  2. 2. your brain is lazy, shallow, and easily distracted.
  3. 3. (but ultimately, also hackable)
  4. 4. So, what do you do? http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephangeyer/3020487807/sizes/o/
  5. 5. thinking perception attention memory
  6. 6. University of Central Lancashire
  7. 7. Preston
  8. 8. Where is the educational merit ... • ... in row after row of bullet points? • Students are expected to sit there for two hours • I get antsy if I don’t check Twitter for 10 minutes
  9. 9. education as endurance event http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/1800877044/
  10. 10. http://identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/ http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html
  11. 11. “why can’t education be like that?”
  12. 12. modern psychology http://www.gentlemansemporium.com/webimages/gallery_1850_gents.gif
  13. 13. Gestalt grouping principles
  14. 14. continuity
  15. 15. similarity
  16. 16. proximity
  17. 17. 9-dot problem
  18. 18. 3 2 4 1 start here
  19. 19. there is no box!
  20. 20. we group objects faster based on proximity ...
  21. 21. ... than we do based on colour or shape (Quinlan & Wilton, 1998)
  22. 22. for what/where decisions, the brain hacks itself!
  23. 23. what/where pathways where? visual cortex what?
  24. 24. farming out tasks to separate pathways buys more processing power
  25. 25. “attentionomics”
  26. 26. the “magic number 7” (± 2) (Miller, 1956)
  27. 27. magic number 4 ? (Cowan, 2001)
  28. 28. subitization
  29. 29. subitization
  30. 30. subitization
  31. 31. max. working memory load: 4-5 things
  32. 32. working memory capacity is limited — but hackable.
  33. 33. cognitive load = amount of work needed to understand or learn something
  34. 34. intrinsic cognitive load: how inherently difficult something is
  35. 35. C B D B C A A F E
  36. 36. extraneous cognitive load: extra work imposed by the thinking/learning environment
  37. 37. A has a reciprocal relationship with B and with C. B C B has a reciprocal relationship with A but only receives incoming information from C A C has a reciprocal relationship with A but not with B, to which it feeds forward.
  38. 38. good communication is all about reducing extraneous load
  39. 39. the hack: farm out work to the brain’s different pathways
  40. 40. visual/auditory pathways visual cortex auditory cortex
  41. 41. we LOVE audiovisual stimulation! http://moviescreenshots.blogspot.com/
  42. 42. so why isn’t this any good?
  43. 43. does pictures does language (spoken or written)
  44. 44. Death by PowerPoint: bored overloaded
  45. 45. ... our research
  46. 46. study 1 (in the lab)
  47. 47. identical spoken presentations about advertising
  48. 48. multiple choice questions
  49. 49. 9. If an advertising campaign has 60 Gross Rating Points (GRPs), the advert could reach: traditional (a) 60% of the target audience once, or 15% of the audience four times (b) 30% of the target audience once, or 15% of the audience two times sparse text (c) 30% of the audience twice, and 40% of the audience four times (d) 60% of the audience once, and 10% of the audience four times sparse text, graphics
  50. 50. ... no difference between groups
  51. 51. Essay answer performance
  52. 52. What do you remember about the main part of the presentation? Please be useful to a product but How advertising can write as much as you can ... that there is a fine line between successful and negative advertising. Identified key factors affecting the success of advertising, such as exposure and an adverts relation to the product. Frequency of exposure can have a detrimental effect on the success of an advert. Consumers should be made aware of a product but not bombarded. Advertisers must concern themselves with selecting suitable mediums to reach desired audiences at the right frequency of risk the advert not affecting the consumer
  53. 53. number of themes written about * = significant difference
  54. 54. In other words, slides that look like this: help students learn better than slides that look like this:
  55. 55. study 2 (in the lecture theatre)
  56. 56. Again, students either saw slides like this ... ... or slides like this:
  57. 57. multiple-choice performance = same
  58. 58. Essay answer performance
  59. 59. significant (p < .05) no. of themes written about 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 traditional sparse slides slides
  60. 60. either ... (a) sparse slides challenge our attention less
  61. 61. and/or ... (b) sparse visuals make it easier to absorb stuff
  62. 62. less is more! max. working memory load: 4-5 things
  63. 63. split the load pictures words
  64. 64. make the brain’s native skills work for you
  65. 65. your brain is lazy, shallow, and easily distracted.
  66. 66. (but ultimately, also hackable)
  67. 67. finiteattentionspan.wordpress.com Twitter: @finiteattention
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Slides from my talk at Presentation Camp London, held at the Salmon Centre in Bermondsey on Sun 17th Jan, 2010. This presentation was adapted from my TCUK09 talk on about half an hour's notice as I hadn't planned to present anything at PCL1! Interesting experience :)

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