PowerPoint® presentation flaws and failures: a psychological analysis
- 1Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA USA
- 2Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 3Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
- 4Division of Social Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Electronic slideshow presentations are often faulted anecdotally, but little empirical work has documented their faults. In Study 1 we found that eight psychological principles are often violated in PowerPoint® slideshows, and are violated to similar extents across different fields – for example, academic research slideshows generally were no better or worse than business slideshows. In Study 2 we found that respondents reported having noticed, and having been annoyed by, specific problems in presentations arising from violations of particular psychological principles. Finally, in Study 3 we showed that observers are not highly accurate in recognizing when particular slides violated a specific psychological rule. Furthermore, even when they correctly identified the violation, they often could not explain the nature of the problem. In sum, the psychological foundations for effective slideshow presentation design are neither obvious nor necessarily intuitive, and presentation designers in all fields, from education to business to government, could benefit from explicit instruction in relevant aspects of psychology.
Keywords: PowerPoint®, electronic slide show, presentation graphics, visual display design, clear communication, educational media, conveying information
Citation: Kosslyn SM, Kievit RA, Russell AG and Shephard JM (2012) PowerPoint® presentation flaws and failures: a psychological analysis. Front. Psychology 3:230. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00230
Received: 19 January 2012; Paper pending published: 15 February 2012;
Accepted: 19 June 2012; Published online: 17 July 2012.
Copyright: © 2012 Kosslyn, Kievit, Russell and Shephard. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Stephen M. Kosslyn, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 75 Alta Road, Stanford, CA 94305, USA. e-mail: email@example.com