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Perceptual Arousal

 

Explanations > Motivation > Perceptual Arousal

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

Perceptual arousal is the state of arousal caused by direct sensory stimuli and our reactions to these.

The main use of perceptual arousal is to grab attention that has been either lost or not yet gained. This gives the opportunity to continue communicating about the real point of interest.

Attention may be gained through:

  • Novelty: Something new and outside current models.
  • Surprise: Something that contradicts expectation.
  • Contrast: With marked change in sensory levels.
  • Concretization: Making abstract ideas more real.
  • Fun: Making things enjoyable.
  • Change: Changing tempo, actions, context.

Example

A teacher reaches into a bag and puts on a big red hat. Her pupils stop what they are doing and look at her. She then starts to tell a story.

A sales person talks about the new electronics technology in terms of a plumbing and flow.

A rock band start a song with a loud and unusual guitar riff.

Discussion

One of the first and biggest problems of attention is getting it. In a world full of noise it is difficult to stand out. Perceptual arousal is an approach that seeks to do this.

An evolutionary force behind perceptual arousal is the way we constantly monitor our environment for opportunities and, especially, threats that leads us to pay attention to things which are different.

So what?

When you want to get attention, rather than talking about interesting detail, start with something that purely gains attention. Then follow it up quickly with more subtle information that keeps them paying attention until you have got the agreement you need.

See also

Contrast principle, Risk Bias

 

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