October 12, 2009

Cognitive load -- and overload



Getting back into the swing of things today! It's nice to be home.

I want to bring your attention to these slides from a talk by Dr. Chris Atherton from the University of Central Lancashire. She talks about the brain's limits of attention and cognitive load, and how we can work around these limitations to make the greatest impact on audience attention and retention.

In short: Traditional slides loaded with text, bullets and clutter don't work! Yep, more research to back up the need for less text and more images. Yay!

Like any good slide show, these visuals are not meant to stand alone. You can get the gist of the presentation from the slides, so do take a look, below. But then head over to Olivia Mitchell's blog, where she has explained the research more thoroughly with the help of the slides and with Dr. Atherton's comments. This is a presentation I would love to see live!

Here's an excerpt:

"Chris suggests that the sparse slides may minimize extraneous cognitive load by creating fewer competing demands on attention — that is, because we don’t need to spend very long processing the visual elements, we have more attention for what the speaker is saying. She adds:
'Having anything on a screen invites people to look at it, the same way their gaze would keep returning to a TV screen in a pub. Since you can’t control the audience’s visual attention, it’s all about controlling what visual information you make available at any given moment, and minimising what is there so it’s not distracting from the spoken narrative, while also ensuring that it is congruent with what you are actually saying.'"

(Thank you for your support over the past week. If you'd like an update on my mom, I wrote about her here.)

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

finiteattentionspan said...

Hi Lisa,

Sorry, I'm still playing catch-up! Thanks for your enthusiasm about the research. You mention the "live" version - at some point apparently there will be video footage of my talk. Naturally I'm dreading this, because nobody likes watching themselves, but I'm trying to approach it the right spirit by thinking of it as a learning experience ;)

Also, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom - this must be a difficult and frightening time for you. I hope she continues to improve.

Kind regards,
Chris

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for stopping by, Chris. Let me know when you have video up and I'll post it. And thanks for the positive thoughts for my mom. She's improving. Slowly, but improving!

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