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Contrast and Attention

 

Explanations > Perception > Attention > Contrast and Attention

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

As we look around us, our attention is grabbed when we see something that stands out, contrasting with things around it. The greater the contrast, the greater the attractive effect.

Example

A woman in a red dress stands out very clearly in a room full of men in dark suits.

In a dark picture, an area of light stands out.

A fireworks display ends with a very loud firecracker flash-bang.

Discussion

Our eyes are more sensitive to the red end of the spectrum, which makes reds, yellows and oranges stand out more than greens, blues and purples. Brightness activates the optic nerves more, and so is more noticeable. In a photograph, a light area will attract the eye.

Larger blocks stand out more than little dots. Large items in a photograph dominate, drawing attention away from other items.

Contrast also works with other senses. Loud noises, sweet tastes and strong punches all cause us to pay attention. This attention-grabbing effect often comes from the evolutionary need to cope with threats and spot opportunities. In animals, prey must be constantly alert for predators. Even predators can face threats, though they will also use contrast to spot prey.

An effect of the use of contrast in a crowded persuasive context, such as TV advertising, is that each tries to out-do the others, with ever-increasing contrast, brightness, noise and so on. Paradoxically, a way to contrast with methods that try to overload the senses is to under-load them, being mute and calm.

So what?

Find ways to stand out from competing attention-grabbers by being different, for example with bright hues, loud noises, etc.

See also

Contrast, Contrast principle

 

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