March 3, 2015
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Science of Capturing People’s Attention
What’s behind the craze for Game of Thrones, March Madness, Beyoncé, the impending birth of the Royal baby or the addictive game Candy Crush Saga? Science can now tell us exactly why and how these mass phenomena have triggered specific types of attention in our brains.
As our attention spans become increasingly saturated and distracted by modern life, CAPTIVOLOGY: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention (HarperOne; March 2015) by former Mashable Co-Editor and Editor-at-Large Ben Parr, uncovers the science behind when we pay attention, when we tune out, and why.
Based on hundreds of hours of research of more than 500 scientific studies on attention, psychology and neurology and interviews with 50 PhDs, researchers and thought leaders, CAPTIVOLOGY features case studies and conversations with masters of attention including Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, film director Steven Soderbergh and illusionist David Copperfield.
What Parr discovered is that there are three types of attention – immediate, short, and long. To “build a bonfire of attention”, Parr shows you how to sustain the attention of an audience by first eliciting a response (immediate attention), engaging their “working memory” (short attention), and then creating value for them (long attention). You can capture all three of these types of attention with what Parr calls seven “captivation triggers”—psychological and scientific phenomena that trigger responses in the mind:
1. Automaticity Trigger: using specific sensory clues like colors, symbols, and sounds to capture attention based on automatic reaction to certain stimuli.
2. Framing Trigger: Adapting to or changing people’s expectations to change what they pay attention to.
3. Disruption Trigger: Violating people’s expectations to change what they pay attention to.
4. Reward Trigger: Leveraging people’s motivations for intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
5. Reputation Trigger: Using the reputations of experts, authorities and the crowd to instill trust and captivate audiences.
6. Mystery Trigger: Creating mystery, uncertainty and suspense to keep an audience intrigued until the very end.
7. Acknowledgement Trigger: Fostering a deeper connection because those people who tend to pay attention to those who provide them with validation and understanding.
Parr brings each of these triggers to life with dozens of stories of how real people used them to captivate their audiences. You’ll hear how Beyoncé mastered “parsocial strategies” that capture the long attention of millions of fans who feel like they know her personally; why Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 became the unsolved mystery the public couldn’t get enough of; how the video game character Super Mario became an icon while other video game characters faded into obscurity; how teenage entrepreneur Edna Murphey invented the market for deodorant with a clever advertising campaign in the early 1900s; and how the Allied Forces distracted the attention of the Germans in a fateful World War II battle.
Each of these fascinating stories reveals why we find ourselves captivated by the events, people, and ideas that dominate the news, pop culture and social media. With these insights, CAPTIVOLOGY will change the way people approach their next business pitch, job interview, appeal for a cause, marketing campaign, or warning to distracted kids.
CAPTIVOLOGY will help us better understand and manage our own attention and the biases that guide it, unlock the secret for creating a mass hit, and empower us to create a bonfire of enduring attention for the passions and projects we care most about.
About the author:
Ben Parr is the cofounder of DominateFund, an early-stage venture fund. He is a columnist for Inc. Magazine, the former Co-Editor and Editor-at-Large of Mashable and a former Columnist and Commentator for CNET. Parr was named by Forbes as one of its current “30 Under 30” and by StatSocial for its Top-100 Social Media Power Influencers, 2015, and Say Media identified him as one of the top ten tech journalists in the world. He appears regularly on CNBC, CNN and “Entertainment Tonight”. He has written more than 2,400 articles on science, technology, media and business. As an award-winning journalist and editor at Mashable he wrote more than 2,400 articles on science, technology, media and business. He has a degree from Northwestern in Science in Human Culture -- the study of how science has impacted history, society, medicine, sociology, and economics. Today he works with startups and Fortune 500 companies showing them every day how to apply the science of attention. He will be using his research for the book to create several unusual marketing strategies designed to captivate potential readers. More at: www.benparr.com