• Users Online: 178
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page
Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 124-125

Split attention effect and imagination effect-two potential pitfalls in PowerPoint® presentation?

Department of Anatomy, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication26-Dec-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. V Dinesh Kumar
Department of Anatomy, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/bjhs.bjhs_23_18

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Kumar V D. Split attention effect and imagination effect-two potential pitfalls in PowerPoint® presentation?. BLDE Univ J Health Sci 2018;3:124-5

How to cite this URL:
Kumar V D. Split attention effect and imagination effect-two potential pitfalls in PowerPoint® presentation?. BLDE Univ J Health Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Feb 28];3:124-5. Available from: http://www.bldeujournalhs.in/text.asp?2018/3/2/124/248553


The utility of PowerPoint® presentations has become pervasive in the medical education because of its profound ability in feeding dual channels of learning, i.e., visual and verbal. According to the active processing principle of multimedia learning, constructive learning occurs when learners pay attention to relevant elements, organize them into a coherent mental representation and process it appropriately to convert into working memory.[1] In contrast, some argue that these multimedia presentations are overrated regarding their effect. A study[2] demonstrated that students could recall more verbal information from a traditional lecture compared to its PowerPoint® based counterpart. Ignoring the factors such as poor quality of presentation, unskilled instructor, and complex instructional content, let us consider two pertinent factors that could potentially impact the effectiveness of learning from PowerPoint® presentation.

If we consider presentation as an array of perceptual units presented contiguously, it is imperative that students cannot process all these units simultaneously. This enforces the learner to divide the attention and process the information while holding the previously transmitted information in their working memory.[3] For example, when dual sources of same information are separated in space (in different slides) or time (presented at various points of time), the learner tends to search the prior knowledge and match the recent piece of information with it. This principle namely, the “split-attention effect” tend to jam the working memory and hinder effective learning. Particularly, in areas, such as histology, gross anatomy, and pathology, which involve a significant visual component, this effect has a profound impact. A study[4] based on eye tracking found that a split-attention information presentation hampers learning because learners tend to neglect the visualizations such as pictures in favor of processing the corresponding text. In general, instructors should present the information to avoid the division of students' attention and shall presumably analyze the metacognitive dynamics of the PowerPoint® presentation at the time of preparation itself.

The second effect namely, imagination effect refers to the ability of the students to imagine the spatial arrangement of elements in particular content.[5] To exemplify, understanding the sequence of embryonic development requires imagining information and processing the relevant schemas in working memory. From our practical experience, we could make out that the majority of the neophytes perceive the embryogenesis as they have difficulty in constructing the desired mental image. Denis[6] postulated that difficulties in imagination have two-fold manifestation. First, a learner generally constructs the schematic mental image in a sequential process by adding one image over other and majority of the neophytes face difficulty during this phase. Second, he/she reviews the whole image which has been constructed and compares it with previous schemas in working memory and senior learners had difficulty during this process. Nevertheless, these difficulties could be circumvented by providing additional instructional support according to the creativity of the instructor.

To conclude, the two effects described above might not ensure “optimal” presentations. Instead, bearing these principles in mind would ensure that presentations are not flawed in these specific ways. In the long path of multimedia learning, there has always been plenty of room for improvement. In fact, we could sense some minor flaws in the slideshow draft only at the time of presentation, and by the constant metacognitive pruning, we tend to excel. I hope that readers would bear these two effects while preparing PowerPoint® presentations, review the slides by applying the principles and fortify them.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Mayer RE. Learning and Instruction. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall Pearson; 2008. p. 46-54.  Back to cited text no. 1
Savoy A, Proctor RW, Salvendy G. Information retention from PowerPoint™ and traditional lectures. Comput Educ 2009;52;858-67.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kalyuga S, Chandler P, Sweller J. Incorporating learner experience into the design of multimedia instruction. J Educ Psychol 2000;92:126-36.  Back to cited text no. 3
Johnson CI, Mayer RE. An eye movement analysis of the spatial contiguity effect in multimedia learning. J Exp Psychol Appl 2012;18:178-91.  Back to cited text no. 4
Cooper G, Tindall-Ford S, Chandler P, Sweller J. Learning by imagining. J Exp Psychol Appl 2001;7:68-82.  Back to cited text no. 5
Denis M. Assessing the symbolic distance effect in mental images constructed from verbal descriptions: A study of individual differences in the mental comparison of distances. Acta Psychol (Amst) 2008;127:197-210.  Back to cited text no. 6


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded66    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal