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The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

By Ben Parr
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Captivology by Ben Parr

Captivology (2015) shows that, in our modern world of rapidly proliferating information, attention is a scarcer and therefore more valuable resource. Knowing what drives our attention, however, and being aware of how we direct it, can help us reclaim this resource. Based on scientific research, the author reveals techniques for drawing people’s attention to any project, idea or message.

Key idea 1 of 8

In a world of seemingly unlimited information, attention is the scarce resource everyone is competing for.

Imagine perusing 174 newspapers daily. Impossible, right? Well, today, the average person is exposed to the informational equivalent of that many newspapers on a daily basis. Two decades ago, people were only exposed to 48 newspapers worth of information – less than a quarter of what we’re bombarded with now.

In reaction to this ever-heavier barrage of information, we’re forced to flit from one thing to the next, spreading our attention thinly.

The trouble is that creating content is a no-brainer. YouTube, blogs, Instagram: such tools make the generation of new information as simple as a couple of clicks. We’re offered more and more data, and have only so many hours in the day; the only way to stay abreast of it all is to divide our attention.

This results in a fragmented attention span, a tendency to continually multitask and high levels of distractibility.

This is why harnessing attention for your cause probably seems like a losing battle.

Take your average start-up. They need: the attention of investors; the press to write about them; users for their product; and people for their team.

But the start-up has competitors, too, and also has to overcome the habits of unproductivity we’ve all developed by trying to deal with the daily avalanche of irrelevant information.

Attention is crucial, though. It’s what makes ideas and products become and remain successful. Just think of Facebook and how dependent it is on having our attention.

And being “good enough” no longer cuts it. For example, we all know some musicians who have incredible talent, but don’t exactly catapult their audience or the press into Beatlemania-like ecstasies. Even the great Vincent van Gogh only saw one of his works sold in his lifetime!

Attention is what turns a good idea into a groundbreaking one. But it won’t just fall into your lap. So let’s see how you can grab your audience’s attention and hold it.

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