New And Suspenseful: How to Capture and Hold Attention
No matter your content medium, you always want to grab attention quickly and hold it while you provide the surrounding facts, lessons, or supporting evidence.
You know the story of Pavlov’s dogs, right?
It’s a foundational lesson in every Introduction to Psychology course and the genesis of what’s known as “classical conditioning.” Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov taught dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by conditioning them to associate the ringing bell with food.
He did this by ringing the bell just before feeding the dogs over time. Eventually, Pavlov could simply ring the bell to spark the conditioned response.
But here’s the part of the story you may not know.
Pavlov naturally wanted to demonstrate the dog’s bell behavior to others, but when new people showed up in the lab to observe, the bell ringing failed to prompt the drool.
This even happened to Pavlov himself when he had his assistants establish the conditioned response in a new canine. When the good doctor came in to observe, the dog wouldn't deliver the salivary response.
Pavlov was puzzled, but he finally figured out what was going on.
When visitors entered the lab, they became novel stimuli that immediately shifted the dog’s attention. This made the pup forget all about the bell and even the food as they checked out the presence of new people.
Pavlov called this the investigatory reflex. From an evolutionary perspective, animals instinctively note and focus on new and different aspects of their environment as a survival mechanism. Developed at a time when failure to note a predator entering the picture was fatal, this investigatory reflex became so important that it overrides everything else.
Scores of studies have shown that this reflex also applies to animals known as human beings, which for us is known as the orienting response. We are wired to note changes in our environment, which is why the new and different are so crucial to attracting and holding our attention.
And now you understand the root of marketing philosophies such as the “new opportunity” and “different is better than better.” Being unique is not something that’s simply nice to have; it’s a crucial key to winning the competitive battle for attention and beyond.
The Compelling Power of the Distinctive Counterargument
The Leading Expert Methodology tells you to think in terms of a movement, which means leading a strategic shift away from the status quo of a particular topic or industry. By definition, your ideas must be fresh and different, making capturing and holding attention much easier even when you’re a new voice.
And yet, what do most people do? They parrot the status quo, hoping existing leaders will notice their allegiance and elevate them to join the status quo club. That’s not how it works, and it casts you as a follower, not a leader.