Arrows are not the best way to get the point across

pointing fingers steal the lime light from arrowsYou’ve put together a fabulous powerpoint presentation with all the bells and whistles. To draw attention to significant points – you’ve inserted big, bold arrows.

But……………….. arrows are not what the brain is wired “to see”.

This week’s Neurotechnology Tip suggests using a more brain friendly pointing mechanism, ditch those arrows and use a finger instead.

The point of it all

A research team from the University of Lincoln delved into this pointy issue, by analyzing where eyes gazed following a little unsolicited prompting. The team used a variety of mechanisms to point the sets of eyes in the “wrong” direction, on a computer screen.

The screen was set up so that the participants looked in the opposite direction of a black dot, which appeared either on the left hand side or right hand side of the screen. Pointy devices popped onto the screen at random, but viewers were instructed to ignore them, since they had “nothing” to do with the task.

Fancy eye tracking equipment recorded the participants eye movements – measuring how long it took them to respond “correctly”, to the appearance of the black dot.

Pointing it out

The eyes which were staring at the computer screens belonged to university students.

The students failed to follow the instructions – instead of ignoring the pointing devices, their eyes obeyed the subliminal instruction – gazing in the direction indicated.

Arrows aren’t “natural”

The pointing devices were not all able to distract the students to the same degree.

The eye gaze and pointy finger were very distracting, in fact, flashing them on the screen for a tenth of a second brought a “response”. Written words, such as “right” and “left”, never raised an eyebrow and arrows were so-so at evoking a response.

Responding is wired into the brain

The research showed the more “natural”, aka biological the pointing triggers were, the most effective they were at “distracting” the gaze of the students.

It makes sense, eyes and fingers have formed part of non-verbal communication since the word dot. Before you understand words, you understand eyes and fingers and a certain amount of emotion can be conveyed by a wagging finger or a disapproving glance.

Pension off arrows

Arrows are used a lot – sign posts, road signs, powerpoint presentations. This research suggests they may not be the optimum way to get the message across.

So, if you need to get someone’s attention, use today’s Neurotechnology Tip and point a finger.

Giving subjects the eye and showing them the finger: Socio-biological cues and saccade generation in the anti-saccade task. Perception (2012) 41 (2): 131 Nicola J Gregory, Timothy L Hodgson

To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..

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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

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  2. By » Blog Archive » Round up 4 – 8 June on June 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm

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