Fade left. Float right. Fly left. So many choices. When designing your presentation media, you probably haven’t given much thought to these animation choices beyond which seems to appeal to you. But there’s a whole underground world of meaning in movement that I’d like to introduce you to.
It’s called perception psychology, and it’s a concept I first encountered when reading Jerry Weissman’s book, Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story. Up until then, I was unaware that directional movement had meaning. I understood that words had these underlying, emotional, value-laden meanings we called connotations, but it blew my mind to find out that movement had connotations too.
Perception psychology is based on how humans have learned to take in visual information according to their culture. For example, if you grew up in a Western culture, you learned that in order to begin reading, you needed to start at the upper left corner of the page and then move across to the right and gradually downward. This means, over years and years of reading and processing information, our eyes have become accustomed to follow this same learned pattern of left to right to gather information.
Weissman explains that great directors make use of perception psychology in movies and theater, having heroes and heroines enter from the left and move to the right, following our natural eye movement, while villains will enter from the right and move to the left. Perhaps the most current form of perception psychology can be seen in the popular dating app, Tinder. It’s no mistake that users swipe right for people they feel positively about; this movement is in flow with our natural eye movement. But when users swipe left, it reinforces the negative connotation associated with anything that moves contrary to our learned pattern.
So if humans draw meaning and assign value based on the direction of movement, presenters need to understand and make use of audience perception psychology. This knowledge can inform our decisions when we choose the movement in our presentation media. Weissman specifically suggests, “if you want your presentation audience to feel positive about your ideas, your animation should follow the natural, reflexive eye movement: left to right. Of course, if you want to send a negative message . . . say, about your competition . . . you should reverse direction and move your objects right to left.”
The next time you are designing presentation media, you can make an informed choice about the direction and movement of the animation you choose. To learn more about visual value, consider reading psychologist Rudolf Arnheim’s classic work, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. And to take your presentation to the next level, contact our presentation design team at Ethos3.