Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention Hardcover – 9 Apr 2015
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“Parr gets it: To succeed in a world where attention is scarce, captivating audiences at every level is a skill that everyone needs. Captivology will show you how to capture other people’s attention, whether you are teacher, entrepreneur, musician, or simply a dreamer with a big idea.” (Adam Braun, New York Times bestselling author of The Promise of a Pencil)
“The Internet has made it easier to communicate but also more challenging to be heard. Ben Parr’s Captivology applies recent discoveries in psychology and neuroscience to the attention economy so that anyone can rise over the crowd and stand out.” (Craig Newmark, founder, Craigslist)
“Filled with useful tips, practical advice and case studies, Captivology is a book everyone in the attention business should buy. (By the way, that’s YOU. Every. One. Of. Us.)” (Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and professor of digital media, Columbia Journalism School)
“Captivology is a brilliant investigation of how one can make a mark in this world by commanding the attention of others (not easy in this incredibly fluid culture) and how we can build on that initial impression to make something tangible and lasting.” (Donal Logue, actor, producer, and director)
From the Back Cover
Why are we captivated by sites like Facebook and Instagram, but couldn't care less about MySpace? Why do some musicians grow as popular as Beyoncé, while others never make the charts? Why do some nonprofits, such as Charity: Water, succeed in getting our donations, while other charities are ineffective? And why can't anyone seem to ever get the attention of their kids?
In Captivology, Ben Parr, former editor of Mashable and cofounder of DominateFund, reveals how and why our mind pays attention to some events, ideas, or people and not others. Vividly bringing to life the stories of en-trepreneurs, musicians, filmmakers, thought leaders, political strategists, magicians, and other masters of attention, Parr presents a new understanding of how attention works and identifies seven captivation triggers—techniques guaranteed to help you capture and retain the attention of friends, colleagues, customers, fans, and even strangers. These triggers spark our brain's attention response systems by appealing to fundamental aspects of human nature.
Combining the latest scientific research with interviews of visionaries who have successfully brought attention to their ideas, projects, and companies (Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, film director Steven Soderbergh, LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner, New York Times bestselling author Susan Cain, and more), Parr makes the case that you can rise above the noisy crowd and be heard—without having to shout.
Insightful and practical, Captivology will change how you tell your kid to clean her room, deliver your next presentation, con-vince the world to support your cause, or attract users to your product.See all Product description
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Ben Parr shares his own thoughts about this science in Captivology whose somewhat hokey title suggests that capturing attention is far more important than merely attracting it, especially these days when the human attention span resembles a strobe light blink. Of course, as is usually the situation, there’s both good news and bad news: getting someone’s attention is good only if (HUGE if) they appreciate it rather than resent it. There are no second chances if curiosity is corrupted by deceit.
These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Parr’s coverage in the first five chapters:
o The Three Stages of Attention (Pages 13-23)
o The Automaticity Trigger (28-32)
o Why Did a Symbol Make Us Care About Heartbleed? (43-46)
o Why Can We Hear Our Names in a Crowded Room? (49-52)
o Moving Beyond Immediate Attention (55-56)
o The Framing Trigger (59-62)
o The Inertia of Ideas (62-65)
o How Do Politicians Set the Agenda? (71-75)
o The Final Word on Frames of Reference (81-82)
o The Disruption Trigger (84-87)
o Statistics + Finger Paints = A Surprising Lesson (88-92)
o Keeping Things Significant (97-99)
o Simplicity, Surprise, and Significance in Context (102-103)
o The Reward Mechanism (106-110)
o How to Deliver Extrinsic Rewards (113-116)
o How to Deliver Intrinsic Rewards (121-122)
o How to Get People to Walk Through Your Doors (126-128)
o Balancing Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards (129-131)
Parr provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel based on more than 500 scientific studies of attention within the disciplines of psychology and neurology. He also conducted about 50 interviews of various thought leaders and drew upon relevant case studies. This is indeed an evidence-driven rather than theory-driven book.
I was especially interested in his discussion of what he characterizes as seven “captivation triggers”; that is, psychological and scientific phenomena that evoke responses in the mind. They are:
1. Automaticity: Initiate appealing sensory stimulation
2. Framing: Relocate expectations to a different context
3. Disruption: Eliminate expectations to create cognitive "room" for something else
4. Reward: Leverage (exploiting) people's reward preferences
5. Reputation: Obtain trust with credentials, track record, and reputation
6. Mystery: Use mystery, uncertainty, and ambiguity to create intrigue that sustains interest
7. Acknowledgement: Use humility to gain credibility with self-deprecating deference
Readers will appreciate Parr's inclusion of dozens of stories that anchor his insights within a real-world context and frame of reference. In fact, as master manipulators such as Steve Jobs demonstrate, audiences love to be entertained but also delighted by surprise. Consider this example of an effective "plot twist" as a mystery trigger:
"At the end of Apple's big presentations and project launches, when it seemed like Jobs had finished his presentation, he would come back with three little words: 'One more thing...' When he said those words, the crowd would go wild and Jobs would unveil one more surprise product."
The plot twist without a spoiler is only one of dozens of means by with to capture and then maintain control of attention, be it one person or a several thousand. My own take is that the credibility of those who are masters of that process is essential to their effectiveness. Self-serving tricks and gimmicks are self-defeating. More to the point, they betray the trust that people invest with their attention. By all means use various triggers to attract attention to what you offer but make certain that what you offer is worthy of attention. Ben Parr brilliantly explains "why some ideas and ideologies are so compelling and why other ideas don't capture your attention, even if you know they should." Attention resembles trust in that both must be earned and can so quickly be lost. Yes, Steve Jobs was a master of all seven triggers but he only used them in good faith. So must anyone else and that, for me, is the most important point for aspiring captivologists to keep in mind.
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Parr starts out by explaining why he wrote the book: “I wrote Captivology out of necessity. In my world–the world of technology and startups–attention often means the difference between success and failure. Startups need to catch the attention of busy investors. They need to secure the attention of the press to spread the word about their products. They need to captivate their users long enough to entice them to come back. Startups need to grab the attention of potential hires and keep them engaged once they join their team. Without attention, even a great startup with a compelling product will die. Attention is the fuel that drives great companies, causes, and ideas.”
With that in mind, Parr shares his considerable marketing skills in Captivology. Chapter one focuses on The Three Stages of Attention. Parr explains the difference between immediate, short, and long-term attention, and how each can be won, as well as the overall benefits. Successful marketing requires a balanced combination of all three.
In chapters two through eight, Parr spends time covering different attention triggers: automacity, framing, disruption, reward, reputation, mystery, and acknowledgement. Parr describes each trigger with scenarios to help you understand it in context, and also talks about the implications and how to apply the trigger effectively.
Captivology is clear and simple to understand. Parr conveys valuable information in a well-written, engaging style. One thing I think the book could use is a companion workbook. Captivology is filled with useful information, but it lacks a little in the area of how to use it. Granted, there is no “right way” or recipe that will work for every company, in every industry, in every instance–so expecting some sort of step-by-step guide might be unreasonable. When you finish Captivology, though, the challenge you face will be to translate it into “What does this mean for me?” and “How do I apply this information effectively?”
Captivology focuses on the science of capturing attention, and provides a solid foundation of well-researched information to back it up. Ultimately, though, marketing is also part art and part luck. It’s applying the right science in the right way at the right time. People are inundated with an overwhelming amount of data, information, and solicitations on a daily basis. You have to do whatever it takes to make your message stand out and capture the attention of audience. Captivology will help you do that.
Three stars because it's at least somewhat useful, but it's not a book I'm likely to return to for continued inspiration.
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