PowerPoint(®) Presentation Flaws and Failures: A Psychological Analysis

Front Psychol. 2012 Jul 17:3:230. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00230. eCollection 2012.


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®; clear communication; conveying information; educational media; electronic slide show; presentation graphics; visual display design.