Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

Captivology
Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention caught my attention at my friend’s apartment (when I was helping her move from Boston to Little Rock). I was curious to learn what the author Ben Parr had to say about rising “above the noisy crowd,” especially given my experience in public relations and marketing, and seeing firsthand how Buzzfeed and Broad City have become pop culture mainstays. Among the reasons why Beyoncé is popular and why we tend to agree with the crowd, I learned the following from reading this book:

 

  1. Attention is the conduit through which we experience our world.
  2. Wear the color red – Our brains are hard-wired to “ignore everything that isn’t necessary to goals,” so we rely on a variety of stimuli to direct our attention through what Parr calls “automaticity triggers.” Red not only stands out, but it also signifies competence.
  3. Offer someone a warm drink – Touch is another important sensory cue, and it turns out that people who hold warm objects are more likely to give positive attention and are more cooperative.
  4. It’s difficult to change someone’s frame of reference – Parr calls this the “inertia of ideas” because over time, we don’t have the mental capacity to continuously reassess our beliefs.
  5. We may believe something is true because we’ve heard it a thousand times – This is known as the “illusion-of-truth effect” and it demonstrates how the familiarity of a statement may impact our assessment of its validity.
  6. There is a certain number of times an audience can be exposed to something – This is known as “effective frequency.” The repetition may cause an audience to engage or it may just become worthless.
  7. Disrupt – It’s easy to capture attention by disrupting expectations through a) surprise, b) simplicity, and c) significance. Significance is the most important because a great ad or campaign won’t be successful unless it’s meaningful.
  8. FOMO – We really do have the “fear of missing out” also known as the “commodity theory,” where the more scarce something is, the more we value it.
  9. We want to be rewarded – Parr discusses intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and how we place more value–and thus pay more attention to–intrinsic rewards such as positive feedback from a boss.
  10. Imagery is a powerful motivator – Because we aren’t so great at grasping esoteric concepts, we go after rewards that we can visualize.
  11. Reputation matters – Turns out that talent is not the best predictor of popularity, reputation is. We rely on three types of reputable sources for directing our attention such as a) experts through knowledge and wisdom, b) authority figures through ability to command obedience, and c) the crowd through its collection of knowledge. Reputation is built by consistency, personality, and time.
  12. Credibility is a shortcut to building reputation – While still building a reputation, one can use a reputable person or company also known as a “validator” to back a pitch.
  13. Confront the crisis – It’s best to respond quickly and thoughtfully when faced with a difficult situation. The longer a misconception is allowed to linger, the more likely it is to stick.
  14. We agonize over mystery – Suspense is a powerful tool to capture and hold our attention because of our “compulsion for completion.”
  15. Being acknowledged is important to us – We have an extreme desire to be recognized, validated, and understood by others, and so we direct our attention towards anything that affirms our identity. Social media is very important because we can instantly and immediately be validated.

All in all, I found Captivology to be an insightful and informative book about the variety of ways to capture attention. I also enjoyed reading historic examples of marketing campaigns such as Edna Murphy and James Webb Young’s campaign to make antiperspirants the cultural norm and Russell Birdwell’s campaign to drive interest and thus ticket sales for Gone with the Wind. Through these and many other examples, I gained valuable knowledge that I can use in my personal life and professional career. I definitely recommend this book.

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Filed under Literature, Pop Culture

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