23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Excellent guide to visual design of slides,
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This review is from: Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations (Paperback)
This is an excellent guide to the visual design of presentation slides (PowerPoint or otherwise). Kosslyn explain his 8 principles, and then provides guidelines for various aspects of presentations, such as text, sound, graphs, and other visuals. At the end of each chapter, he ties the guidelines in that chapter to basic principles that underlie them.
However, Kosslyn is an expert on visual perception, not an expert on learning. Therefore, take his suggestions on non-visual aspects of presentations with a grain of salt. For example, he endorses reading your slides aloud, which he says "gives the viewers two chances to understand and remember them". In fact, reading and hearing the same information *reduces* retention of information. For more details, see Multimedia Learning.
If you buy only one book to improve your presentations, I suggest that you get Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (Bpg-Other). However, "Clear and to the Point" is an excellent additional resource.
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Initial post: Nov 2, 2007 11:46:37 AM PDT
S. M. Kosslyn says:
This is a comment from the author of "Clear and to the Point," about this review. In an effort not to make the book read like an academic treatise, I decided not to include references or footnotes. I am now beginning to wonder about the wisdom of that decision. Let me comment on the issue of whether it makes sense to read bulleted material aloud: The book this reviewer refers to, "Multimedia Learning" by Richard E. Mayer, curiously omits one of the author's own set of results. Here is the reference and abstract:
Moreno, R., and Mayer, R. E. (2002). Verbal redundancy in multimedia learning: When reading helps listening. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 156-163.
Abstract: "Three studies investigated whether and under what conditions the addition of on-screen text would facilitate the learning of a narrated scientific multimedia explanation. Students were presented with an explanation about the process of lightning formation in the auditory alone (nonredundant) or auditory and visual (redundant) modalities. In Experiment 1, the effects of preceding the nonredundant or redundant explanation with a corresponding animation were examined. In Experiment 2, the effects of presenting the nonredundant or redundant explanation with a simultaneous or a preceding animation were compared. In Experiment 3, environmental sounds were added to the nonredundant or redundant explanation. Learning was measured by retention, transfer, and matching tests. Students better comprehended the explanation when the words were presented auditorily and visually rather than auditorily only, provided there was no other concurrent visual material. The overall pattern of results can be explained by a dual-processing model of working memory, which has implications for the design of multimedia instruction."
From pg. 163: "An effective technique to promote broader learning with multimedia explanations is to use the auditory and visual modalities simultaneously for verbal information if no other visual material is presented concurrently. The beneficial effects of verbal redundancy, however, are limited to presentations where no other visual information is presented simultaneously to the learner."
However, the reviewer is right to be concerned, given that this conclusion is controversial; others have not found that reading text aloud enhances memory and comprehension, notably members of John Sweller's group. In fact, sometimes reading aloud actually impairs learning. Specifically:
Kalyuga, S., Chandler, P., and Sweller, J. (2004). When redundant on-screen text in multimedia technical instruction can interfere with learning. Human Factors, 46, 567-581.
Abstract: "It is frequently assumed that presenting the same material in written and spoken form benefits learning and understanding. The present work provides a theoretical justification based on cognitive load theory, and empirical evidence based on controlled experiments, that this assumption can be incorrect. From a theoretical perspective, it is suggested that if learners are required to coordinate and simultaneously process redundant material such as written and spoken text, an excessive working memory load is generated. Three experiments involving a group of 25 technical apprentices compared the effects of simultaneously presenting the same written and auditory textual information as opposed to either temporally separating the two modes or eliminating one of the modes. The first two experiments demonstrated that nonconcurrent presentation of auditory and visual explanations of a diagram proved superior, in terms of ratings of mental load and test scores, to a concurrent presentation of the same explanations when instruction time was constrained. The 3rd experiment demonstrated that a concurrent presentation of identical auditory and visual technical text (without the presence of diagrams) was significantly less efficient in comparison with an auditory-only text. Actual or potential applications of this research include the design and evaluation of multimedia instructional systems and audiovisual displays."
The key to resolving the disparity in results seems to be here (from the above article):
pg 579: "However, the results of Experiment 3 seem to contradict Moreno and Mayer (2002), who found that when no visual diagrams were presented, concurrent presentations of the same auditory and visual text produced better results than did auditory-only text. The inconsistency of results may be resolved by considering the size of textual segments that learners process continuously without a break. In Experiment 3 the text was continuously presented to participants as a single large chunk (of around 350 words) from beginning to the end, without any breaks.... Smaller segments should allow participants to consolidate partial mental models constructed from each segment of the text before moving to the next one. Such formats of presentation were used in Moreno and Mayer's (2002) experiments."
Given my recommendations for how much material to include in a bullet, the Moreno and Mayer findings clearly are most relevant. Thus, I stand by my recommendation: When you show one or two lines of text (the most that should be in a single bullet), either pause and let the audience members read before continuing on, or read aloud the material. But never "talk over" the material, saying one thing while the audience is reading something else.
The author of this review offered this issue as only an example of reasons to take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm very interested in getting it right, and thus would be *very* grateful if she (or anyone else) could tell me about other problems with the book. As it happens, I do know a bit about learning -- I'm co-author of an introductory psychology textbook ("Psychology in Context," Kosslyn & Rosenberg, 2006, now in its 3rd edition) and also of a cognitive psychology textbook ("Cognitive Psychology: Mind and Brain," Smith & Kosslyn, 2007), both of which have required me to read rather widely. But even so, it's definitely possible that I've gotten something wrong, and I would appreciate any help to ensure that I'm not misleading readers!
Thank you for your interest.
Stephen M. Kosslyn
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