An emotion is worth a thousand pictures

"A picture is worth a thousand words" is a famous cliche, highlighting how inefficient reading text is as a means to transfer information.
  1. Read/recognize words
  2. Construct sentences
  3. Extract meaning
  4. Visualize image
Just looking at a picture directly would have saved a lot of time/brain power.

But this is just one level of efficiency/shortcut. Let me explain.

Locked up in your brain are millions of experiences and emotions that you have accumulated over the years. These stored experiences are of a totally different order of magnitude than a simple image. A good presentation slide manages to unlock these hidden experiences in a microsecond: a super brain short cut.

A crude comparison is to look at the basics of the transistor, an electronic component that was the basis of the rise of the portable radio and modern consumer electronics. A small current to the Basis terminal, unlocks a much larger current between the other 2 terminals (image via Wikipedia).

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina explains how smell is actually an even more powerful trigger of releasing experiences than visual stimulation. Besides the technical challenge of using smells in a presentation, it would also be impossible to use them: the smell that counts is the one you personally experienced when "recording" the emotion. They are different for every member in the audience.

I always like to contradict myself, so here we go. Hemingways' famous 6-word story:
For sale: baby shoes, never used.
is actually an example of how a few words can actually trigger a complex chain of emotions in our brain. More 6-word stories here. But I think it is the exception to the rule.

Back to presentations, how to use this when designing slides? When looking for images, test (on your self) how good a job a candidate does in triggering a broader state of mind, beyond the plain descriptive features of the photo you have in front of you.