Cognitive science vs. crappy PowerPoint slides

IO9's Annalee Newitz liveblogged the presentation of Stephen M. Kosslyn, author of Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston. Kosslyn presented on his findings from Cognitive Science research into the optimal way to present visual information — like PowerPoint slides. Kosslyn's boiled it all down to a few simple points, and while I'm sure there's a lot of nuance and detail in the book, Annalee's piece on its own is damned good advice to circulate to the slideslingers in your life.

The Rudolph Rule refers to simple ways you can make information stand out and guide your audience to important details — the way Rudolph the reindeer's red nose stood out from the other reindeers' and led them. If you're presenting a piece of relevant data in a list, why not make the data of interest a different color from the list? Or circle it in red? "The human brain is a difference detector," Kosslyn noted. The eye is immediately drawn to any object that looks different in an image, whether that's due to color, size, or separation from a group. He showed us a pizza with one piece pulled out slightly, noting that our eyes would immediately go to the piece that was pulled out (which was true). Even small differences guide your audience to what's important.


Link to Clear and to the Point