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Confusion and Attention

 

Explanations > Perception > Attention > Confusion and Attention

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

To get attention, do something that confuses. This is often best as something that nearly makes sense as opposed to something that is totally alien. The goal is to get people to look twice and then focus in as they try to work out just what is happening.

Example

A magician makes an egg appear to disappear into thin air as a first trick. This grabs attention as people try to work out what happened.

A sales person drops a couple technical terms into the conversation. As the customer is wondering what these mean, the sales person says that 'all will be revealed' and moves them to an isolated counter where a more complete demonstration can be carried out.

Discussion

When we are trying to make sense of what we experience, we seek to match what we see and otherwise sense to the patterns and models we have built up in the past. Much of the time, we can get a close enough fit so we can mentally close on the experience and move on to the next one. However, if there is insufficient fit between experience and model, we pause to look again, either to force a fit or to try to create a new model (often as a variation of an existing one). This is where attention is gained.

There are two opposite dangers when using confusion is being used to gain attention. First, the person may dismiss the confusing element as they decide it is too trivial or an isolated incident. Secondly, they may conclude that it is a threat and go into Fight-or-Flight mode. The key is to be different enough to get attention without being too weird.

So what?

Use confusion carefully to grab attention and pique interest, though being careful not to put the person off.

See also

Confusion principle, Inferring Meaning, Elaboration Likelihood Model

 

 

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