How to explain illustrations?

In his dissertation published today (abstract and link to open access PDF), F. Schmidt-Weigand takes a closer look at effects of text modality. He is challenging the common guidelines that recommend spoken rather than written explanation of visualizations. His studies confirmed that written text dragged visual attention away from inspecting illustrations.

“However, under less attentional competition, less time constraints, and learner control of pace, these effects changed, decreased, or even disappeared.”

Can we apply this finding to the frequent situation where we need to communicate something important to our bosses? They are said to prefer oral presentations over written reports, and they are always under time pressure. Therefore, the mix of graphics, written words and oral narration must be very well balanced.

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