7 Ways to Capture Attention-

Hello, World!


Reprint from Harvard Business Review

by Ben Parr

Your long-term success depends on winning the attention of others. If your boss doesn’t notice your work, how will you get a promotion? If your team doesn’t listen to you, how can you lead effectively? And if you can’t capture the attention of clients, how does your business or career survive?

“Attention is the most important currency that anybody can give you,” Steve Rubel of Edelman once told me. “It’s worth more than money, possessions or things.”

But very few people know the science behind captivating others. That’s why I spent two years researching the subject for my new bookI sifted through more than 1,000 psychology, neurology, economics, and sociology studies. I interviewed dozens of leading researchers and attention-grabbing thought leaders, including Sheryl Sandberg, Steven Soderbergh, and David Copperfield, just to name a few. And I drew on my years of experience with startups, both as co-Editor of Mashableand a venture capitalist.

I learned that there are seven triggers that call people to attention:

Automaticity. If somebody fires a gun in the air, you’re going to turn your head. If a female hitchhiker wears red, she’s more likely to get picked up. Sensory cues like these to direct our attention automatically. It’s a safety and survival mechanism that helps us react faster than our brains can think. I’m not suggesting you speak louder than everyone else and always wear crimson dresses or socks. But think about more subtle ways to play on people’s instincts to capture attention. For example, try giving a star prospect or client a hot cup of coffee or tea. One study published in Science found that exposure to that kind of warmth made them more giving and friendly.

Framing. Our view of the world is shaped by our biological, social, and personal experiences and biases. These frames of reference lead us to embrace and pay attention to some ideas and to ignore others entirely. To leverage this trigger, you have to either adapt to your audience’s frame or change it. One technique you might use to achieve the latter is repetition. A classic study from the 1970s found that if you expose subjects to the same statement (e.g. “Tulane defeated Columbia in the first Sugar Bowl game.”) repeatedly, they will start to believe it is true. So don’t be afraid to repeat a message if you want it to sink in.

Disruption. We pay special attention to anything that violates our expectations. This is because we have an innate need to figure out whether the incident signals a threat or a positive development. In academic circles, this is known as expectancy violations theory. The more disruptive something is, the more interesting it becomes. To get the attention of your bosses, clients and colleagues, try surprising them in a positive way: ask an unexpected question, beat a tough deadline, invite them for a walk instead of a coffee.

Reward. Many people believe the neurotransmitter dopamine causes us to feel pleasure. But, according to Dr. Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, it is much more aligned with anticipation and motivation. It fuels our desire to “want” food, sex, money or more intrinsic rewards like self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose. The prospect of capturing these things makes us pay attention. Your goal as a manager should be to identify the incentives that most appeal to your employees, colleagues and bosses and to make them more visceral in their minds. Rewards we can touch, experience, or even just visualize have a greater impact on our attention. For example, when you’re offering your team an off-site retreat at the end of a big project, don’t just tell them about it – send them pictures and make them salivate.

Reputation. Consumers consistently rate experts as the most trusted spokespeople, more than CEOs or celebrities. There’s a scientific reason for this: in a 2009 study, Emory University neuroeconomist Greg Berns found that the decision-making centers of our brains slow or even shut down while we are receiving advice from an expert. This is a phenomenon Dr. Robert Cialdini calls “directed deference.” So, especially if you’re trying to capture the attention of people who don’t know you, feel free to lead with your credentials, establish your expertise and cite others who are most knowledgeable on the topic at hand.

Mystery. Ever wonder why we’re unable to put down a good book or stop binge-watching shows like Lost? Our memory is fine-tuned to remember incomplete stories and tasks. There’s actually a scientific term for this: the Zeigarnik effect, named after the Soviet psychologist who discovered it. We also dislike uncertaintyand will actively try to reduce it by any means possible, and you can use this to your advantage. Say you’re meeting with a prospective client or recruit, and you’d like her to come back for a second meeting. Tell her a story or assign yourself a task that you’ll complete when she does. Her compulsion for completion will nag at her, which means you’ve got her attention.

Acknowledgement. Dr. Thomas de Zengotita, a media anthropologist and author of Mediated, believes that acknowledgement – our need for validation and empathy from others – is one of our most vital needs. “All mammals want attention,” he told me. “Only human beings need acknowledgment.” Key to this is a sense of belonging to a community that cares about us. Create that feeling for anyone whose attention you’d like to capture, and they’ll repay you.

The most effective employees, managers, and executives are the ones who use these seven triggers to shine a spotlight on their ideas, projects, and teams. Understanding the science of attention is a prerequisite to success in the information age.

Listening to Happy Music Improves Creativity

From Forbes Magazine


Most people know intuitively that music can be a good way to pump yourself up or get the creative juices flowing — and a new study brings some scientific evidence to the connection. It finds that people asked to listen to positive-sounding music had a measurable boost in creativity compared with people listening to other types of music. The phenomenon might be a good one to keep in mind when you’re feeling blocked or in a creative cul-de-sac.

This came out in the Metro Edition

Better Living Through Sci-Fi: 5 Movies With Useful Lessons

Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Philip K. Dick expert Dan Abella tells us how speculating about the future can help us live a better life today

By day, Dan Abella coaches people from actors to athletes in developing a more successful mindset at Peak Performance Sciences and NYNLP. By night, he is New York City’s foremost science fiction enthusiast who organizes of the annual Philip K. Dick Sci-Fi Film Festival.

Those two interests will collide on April 18 in The Kosmodrome, a free one-day “motivational and immersive theater experience” that incorporates films, light shows, brain-stimulating music and performances that, to borrow a phrase from Inception, will help you dream a little bigger.

“The Kosmodrome is a transformative power that evokes intense emotional states to replace years of negative conditioning with life enhancing flow experiences,” Abella says. “With the aim of personal growth and connection to one's core values and beliefs, this experiential journey brings forth a world of wholeness and freedom.”

His history with science fiction goes back way further than Abella’s 20 years as a coach, specializing in a method known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It was around age 8 when he saw his first sci-fi film: The Fly, by his recollection. “I always felt sci-fi speaks to us on many levels,” he says. “Sci-fi draws upon a larger source of inspiration and can often give us truths about who we are that as direct as you’d find in a standard book of psychology.”


The Kosmodrome is free to attend and will be held April 18 from 7-10 p.m. at the Producers Club (358 W. 44th St.) To RSVP, email or call at 800-249-6017.




Sci Fi Vortex

Reality is more subjective than you think

Most people accept the world as it is presented to them. But just as Neo realizes there is no spoon in The Matrix, Abella says we need to understand how much of reality is actually less real than we think. Of course, you can’t stop bullets or survive a jump from a building in real life, but understanding where your boundaries actually are — physically, emotionally, mentally, professionally — is the key you need to unlocking your ambition and potential.



Organize your mind

The film’s idea of stacked dream sequences is a great example of an organized mind. Whether it’s the engines Nikola Tesla would build in his mind before he ever built an engine in real life or the idea of infiltrating the subconscious mind to steal information in Inception, having a structure to your mind is a learned skill. “People spend more time modeling their apartments than modeling their minds,” laments Abella, noting that it’s a learned skill like any other. “The mind is a fluid sense of processes that you can move internally to open up more spaces so we can be more creative and more insightful about the world.”




Don’t trust machines above yourself

With self-driving cars killing pedestrians and digital GPS systems sending drivers down a flight of stairs, we’re already seeing how well-meaning machines can benignly kill us. This isn’t even getting into the territory of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the machine that believes itself infallible having an emotional crisis when it realizes it’s been given false information. The lesson is not only to be careful with how much power we give machines over us. “AI is definitely something we need to be very careful about, how we develop it and how we interact with it, because we could very well use it as a crutch and not rely on our own senses.”


Check your preconceived notions

In the era of fake news, everyone is wary of bias — but we’re not always sure what it looks like. For example, do minorities commit more crimes, or are these communities simply overpoliced and the data skewed because of that? This is a crisis currently unfolding, but Minority Report warned us back in 2002 about the dangers of predictive policing. “By the time people find out the truth of someone, everybody’s opinion is already made up,” Abella points out. “He’s been tried and convicted.” Believing something because it feels true is truthiness, not truth. Abella's advice? “Step back and ask ourselves, who benefits from putting out this story at this time?”


Remember your own power

Humanity's negligence is what got Earth in trouble in Interstellar. But it was also human ingenuity and love that saved our species in this story about time travel where the future can touch the past. That may or may not be possible thanks to relativity, but one thing scientists are increasingly saying exists is parallel universes. “There’s some well-respected physicists that believe when we think of something or fantasize about something, what we’re actually doing is perceiving another reality, a parallel universe that exists right next to us,” says Abella. Even when a sci-fi film is about how far we’ve invented ourselves beyond the primordial ooze the first lifeforms crawled out of, the lesson often is that being human is our greatest asset.


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