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Visual attention:
a psychologist’s perspective
          Dr Chris Atherton

          School of Psychology,
     Universit...
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/
“so are you analysing me
       now, then?”
thinking
    perception
         attention
            memory
University of Central
     Lancashire
Preston
Andy
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/
education needs to
      embrace
instructional design!
disclaimer: ‘education’
technical
 communication needs
to embrace psychology
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 square!
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”
Experiment :
gloat
sprout
 bring
 their
bench
 stock
 train
whole
black
 trap
strap
slack
crack
 flap
wrap
wrack
glack
sprut
 slaff
 blup
 prib
kreeb
 frall
sowl
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 instructional design
  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
http://identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/


http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html
“why can’t education be
      like that?”
not just aesthetic!
study 1
(in the lab)
traditional bullet-points with occasional diagrams
sparse text only
sparse text with diagrams
identical auditory track
   in each condition
MCQ performance
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 write as much as you can ...

 How advertising can b...
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:
MCQ performance
    = same
Essay answer
performance
significant (p < .05)


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

(a) sparse slides lead to
fewer competing
attentional demands
or ...

(b) sparse visual cues
lead to better encoding
of information
implications for
instructional design
 and tech comms?
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
Thank you to:
  Dr Andy Morley
   Olivia Mitchell
   Simon Bostock
TCUK 2009 committee
Chris Atherton at TCUK09
Chris Atherton at TCUK09
Chris Atherton at TCUK09
Chris Atherton at TCUK09
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Slides from a talk by Dr Chris Atherton from the University of Central Lancashire about the brain's limits of attention and cognitive load, and how we can work around that to ensure that we still have people's attention (in education, technical communication, etc)

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Chris Atherton at TCUK09

  1. 1. Visual attention: a psychologist’s perspective Dr 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. “so are you analysing me now, then?”
  6. 6. thinking perception attention memory
  7. 7. University of Central Lancashire
  8. 8. Preston
  9. 9. Andy
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. education as endurance event http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/1800877044/
  12. 12. education needs to embrace instructional design!
  13. 13. disclaimer: ‘education’
  14. 14. technical communication needs to embrace psychology
  15. 15. modern psychology http://www.gentlemansemporium.com/webimages/gallery_1850_gents.gif
  16. 16. Gestalt grouping principles
  17. 17. continuity
  18. 18. similarity
  19. 19. proximity
  20. 20. 9-dot problem
  21. 21. 3 2 4 1 start here
  22. 22. there is no square!
  23. 23. we group objects faster based on proximity ...
  24. 24. ... than we do based on colour or shape (Quinlan & Wilton, 1998)
  25. 25. for what/where decisions, the brain hacks itself!
  26. 26. what/where pathways where? visual cortex what?
  27. 27. farming out tasks to separate pathways buys more processing power
  28. 28. “attentionomics”
  29. 29. Experiment :
  30. 30. gloat sprout bring their bench stock train whole
  31. 31. black trap strap slack crack flap wrap wrack
  32. 32. glack sprut slaff blup prib kreeb frall sowl
  33. 33. the “magic number 7” (± 2) (Miller, 1956)
  34. 34. magic number 4 ? (Cowan, 2001)
  35. 35. subitization
  36. 36. subitization
  37. 37. subitization
  38. 38. max. working memory load: 4-5 things
  39. 39. working memory capacity is limited — but hackable.
  40. 40. cognitive load = amount of work needed to understand or learn something
  41. 41. intrinsic cognitive load: how inherently difficult something is
  42. 42. C B D B C A A F E
  43. 43. extraneous cognitive load: extra work imposed by the thinking/learning environment
  44. 44. 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.
  45. 45. good instructional design is all about reducing extraneous load
  46. 46. the hack: farm out work to the brain’s different pathways
  47. 47. visual/auditory pathways visual cortex auditory cortex
  48. 48. we LOVE audiovisual stimulation! http://moviescreenshots.blogspot.com/
  49. 49. so why isn’t this any good?
  50. 50. does pictures does language (spoken or written)
  51. 51. Death by PowerPoint: bored overloaded
  52. 52. ... our research
  53. 53. http://identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/ http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html
  54. 54. “why can’t education be like that?”
  55. 55. not just aesthetic!
  56. 56. study 1 (in the lab)
  57. 57. traditional bullet-points with occasional diagrams
  58. 58. sparse text only
  59. 59. sparse text with diagrams
  60. 60. identical auditory track in each condition
  61. 61. MCQ performance
  62. 62. 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
  63. 63. ... no difference between groups
  64. 64. Essay answer performance
  65. 65. What do you remember about the main part of the presentation? Please write as much as you can ... How advertising can be useful to a product but 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
  66. 66. number of themes written about * = significant difference
  67. 67. In other words, slides that look like this: help students learn better than slides that look like this:
  68. 68. study 2 (in the lecture theatre)
  69. 69. Again, students either saw slides like this ... ... or slides like this:
  70. 70. MCQ performance = same
  71. 71. Essay answer performance
  72. 72. significant (p < .05) no. of themes written about 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 traditional sparse slides slides
  73. 73. either ... (a) sparse slides lead to fewer competing attentional demands
  74. 74. or ... (b) sparse visual cues lead to better encoding of information
  75. 75. implications for instructional design and tech comms?
  76. 76. less is more! max. working memory load: 4-5 things
  77. 77. split the load pictures words
  78. 78. make the brain’s native skills work for you
  79. 79. your brain is lazy, shallow, and easily distracted.
  80. 80. (but ultimately, also hackable)
  81. 81. finiteattentionspan.wordpress.com Twitter: @finiteattention
  82. 82. Thank you to: Dr Andy Morley Olivia Mitchell Simon Bostock TCUK 2009 committee
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Slides from a talk by Dr Chris Atherton from the University of Central Lancashire about the brain's limits of attention and cognitive load, and how we can work around that to ensure that we still have people's attention (in education, technical communication, etc)

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