Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention – Ben Parr
Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention is a book by Ben Parr. In the book, Parr examines the psychological phenomenon that captivates our attention and how we can use this to our advantage.
He looks at the science behind attention and explores the factors that make something captivating, including storytelling, emotion, engagement, and more.
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Parr also provides practical advice and strategies on how to use knowledge of attention to get people to pay attention to what you have to say and to act on it.
The Three Stages of Attention
When you’re trying to capture the attention of others—whether it’s a classroom full of students or dispersed readers of your blog—you must remember that they can only pay attention to a small number of people and ideas. With thousands of distractions and priorities competing for your audience’s attention, it’s easy to see why their focus can be so fleeting.
To build a bonfire of attention for your message, you have to capture your audience’s immediate, short, and long attention.
First, you need to elicit a reaction by being distinctive or disruptive. Once you have your audience’s immediate attention, you need something unique, novel, and useful to keep their working memory focused on your message. Having secured their short attention, you must create value for your audience to capture their long-term attention.
The captivation triggers are ideal tools to use to capture these three types of attention.
The triggers—Automaticity, Framing, Disruption, Reward, Reputation, Mystery, and Acknowledgment—will help you build a bonfire of attention by progressing from capturing your audience’s immediate attention to mesmerizing their short attention and finally to captivating their long attention.
Our senses process the world around us and direct our attention, long before we’re even conscious or aware of them. The subconscious influences that color, sound, touch, and other sensory experiences have on our attention are necessary mechanisms for our survival. This influence happens automatically, before we—or our audiences—have a chance to think.
That’s why the Automaticity Trigger—our tendency to pay attention to certain sensory cues because of their contrast or the unconscious associations we have with those cues—is so good at capturing our attention—or interrupting our concentration.
Certain stimuli become more attention grabbing in the right contexts. We will pay attention to a lion before an antelope. We will pay attention to a gunshot over the chirps of robins. And we will usually look at red before blue, especially if romance or sex is involved.
The Framing Trigger has a major impact on both our short attention (our short-term focus) and our long attention (our long-term interests). By using the Framing Trigger, you can get on your audience’s radar and either adapt to or change their frame of reference so they become more receptive to you and your message.
People don’t change their frames of reference on a dime, though, and for good reason. If we kept changing our opinions and listening to every argument somebody threw our way, we’d be overwhelmed. This is why we have frames of reference in the first place—they help us understand our world through the lens of our past experiences.
One of the reasons Game of Thrones has been so successful is its penchant for disrupting expectations. How does it do this? By unexpectedly killing off lead characters, oftentimes in shocking and brutal fashion.
Authors of popular book series are not supposed to kill off main characters, but George R. R. Martin does it anyway. These dramatic and unexpected moments are examples of the Disruption Trigger in action. When you look deeper, you can see the three S’s of disruption in action.
Surprise, simplicity, and significance just can’t be ignored when using the Disruption Trigger to capture attention, because if you ignore even one, your message simply becomes less captivating.
Our brain is wired to find the path of least resistance to a reward when possible. This is why extrinsic rewards are ideal for immediate and short attention and why so many of us succumb to our cravings for McDonald’s.
On the other hand, if we can exhibit self-control, our attention and decisions will focus on long-term intrinsic rewards. This is why intrinsic rewards are a tool for capturing long attention.
The rewards that motivate us differ from person to person, but in the end, it really does come down to one thing: a reward has to solve somebody’s problem.
In the immediate term, money and extrinsic rewards solve problems like hunger, short-term pleasure, and the ability to buy your wife something nice. But over the long term, our motivations are intrinsic. Will I be successful? Will I find love? Will I get the respect that I deserve?
Reward Trigger Contd.
The key to capturing attention with the Reward Trigger is using extrinsic and intrinsic rewards in the right situations and discovering the motivations your audience have for achieving those rewards.
Finding the right balance between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards means the difference between happy employees who stick with your company and disgruntled ones who never achieve their potential. The key is helping solve people’s short-term problems while giving them the opportunity to better themselves in the long term.
A reputation is the embodiment of a person, company, or idea’s credibility and worthiness. It is this credibility and worth that determine whether something is worth our time and long-term interest.
That’s why reputations are important shortcuts for quickly determining who is worthy of our attention. When simply hearing your name makes people pay attention, you have become a master of attention.
Our trust in experts, authority figures, and the crowd is incredibly strong, and sometimes that blinds us from making informed decisions about where our scarce attention should be placed. But these people are still people—humans who can and do make mistakes. Never be afraid to make your own independent judgments.
It’s one of the basic human instincts to be attracted to mysteries and to look for the solution to them.
A great mystery activates our curiosity and makes us uncomfortable enough to seek out an answer. A great mystery sticks in our mind and demands our attention until it is solved.
Mystery is more than just sleuths solving crimes; it’s tied into the everyday unsolved questions of life. We are driven to seek answers to unsolved riddles, not just from the stories we read but also from questions about the universe itself.
The Influence of Attention: Ending Thoughts
Hopefully you have a better understanding now of why some ideas and ideologies are so compelling and why other ideas simply don’t capture your attention, even if you know they should.
The lessons of this book apply everywhere, from teaching to entrepreneurship to your personal relationships.
Use Captivology to not only capture the attention of others but to improve the quality of your own life as well. You have the tools and knowledge to build long-lasting attention. Now go and use them.