Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles SPEAKER: Good afternoon and welcome to Talks at Google. We are very pleased to bring the author and entrepreneur Ben Parr to campus today. This Princeton native, that would be Princeton, Illinois-- being from Champaign, I definitely respect that-- was also voted in 2012 one of the Fortune 30 under 30. So that's pretty cool. His career in the Valley and in tech has really spanned a wide variety of areas from working at "CNET" and "Mashable" to currently with "Inc." magazine and the VC DominateFund. Today, he's speaking to us about yonder book, "Captivology, discusses the psychology of attention, and includes a variety of interviews with thought leaders on that subject. It is truly the fundamental currency of today's economy. And we'll have some time at the end for questions, but for now, Ben Parr, you now have our attention. Welcome to Google. BEN PARR: Thank you. But you've all seen "Up," right? And you've seen Doug. I feel like Doug the dog, screaming "squirrel" everywhere all the time. And we live in this kind of new era in the last decade where we are bombarded with more information than ever. And yet, we have the same 24 hours a day. In 1986, we were presented with approximately 46 newspapers worth of information, according to one research study. And by 2006, that number had increased to 176 newspapers worth. Today it's actually seven full HD DVDs worth of information that we are exposed to on a daily basis. And so you combine that with our multitasking habitats--that's my actual TweetDeck. It looks like someone vomited on something. And this is the kind of thing all of us are dealing with daily. And our multitasking habit, which is not actually helping us all that much. In fact, there's another study that found that those who consider themselves heavy multimedia multitaskers are actually the least effective when it comes to completing tasks and switching between tasks and accuracy. And so you have this combination of way more information than ever and us having bad habits to manage that information. And you have a world where it is both extremely difficult to capture attention and to stand out with your idea, whether it's a project, it's a start up, it's a passion, it's a charity, and having it be seen by the world. And at the same time, defending our attention by all of this kind of information, understanding which things are worth our time and attention. And so that's kind of the reason, the impetus, for why I wrote "Captivology." And "Captivology" is about the science and the psychology of attention, and why we pay attention to certain people and products, and how to utilize that science to capture the attention of others. And so I'm going to talk a little bit about the research I did for "Captivology"-- over 1,000 research studies, interviews with dozens of PhDs, and everybody from Steven Soderbergh, Adrian Grenier, the people behind the Old Spice campaign, Sheryl Sandberg, David Copperfield, people across industries. I'm going to talk about the three stages of attention and my model of attention and, more importantly, what I call the seven captivation triggers. And these are seven psychological triggers that capture attention across all these stages. And so let me get into attention. And so I kind of describe attention as a bonfire. And your goal in capturing attention is to walk people through the three stages, is to grow the fire because you can't just start out with a bonfire. You have to start with the spark. And then you go through the kindling. And then you go and you finally get to the logs in the bonfire. And so the first stage is immediate attention. The second stage is short attention. And the last stage is long attention. And let me explain a little bit about each stage. Stage one. Immediate attention. It is our immediate and automatic reaction to certain sights, sounds, and stimuli. It's how we react if someone does this, for example. [POP] I love doing that every single time. It's how we automatically react to when there's sights, sounds, something like that. When someone puts a gunshot, or launches a confetti cannon, we're going to pay attention. And I'm sorry to the janitors in a little bit. But the reason why we react is because it's a defense mechanism. We're trying to protect ourselves. Imagine if you had to think every time a car was coming at you. We'd be dead human beings. We'd be a dead species. And so it's a protection mechanism. And you'll see that a lot of attention is a defense mechanism. And a lot of it is activating those defense mechanisms. The second stage is from subconscious automatic attention to conscious, directed attention, is when we start concentrating on something like a test, or a speaker, or a dress. That goddamn dress. But it's when we actually start focusing. And it is a kind of short-term thing. And it's run by a system called working memory. And working memory is this short-term memory system that processes the sights and sounds around us and the other stimuli and helps us determine which things are worth our time and attention and, more importantly, which things should be stored in long-term memory. Which leads us-- well, before I tell you-- very complicated system, by the way. I won't go through the entire process here, but suffice it to say it's a very complicated system that runs our attention. The final stage of attention is a stage called long attention. I kind of use Beyonce as an example. It's the difference between hearing and listening to a Beyonce song in the car and joining the Beyhive and becoming a lifelong fan and buying albums. It's the reason why when Beyonce launched her last album, she didn't have to do any marketing. She just got to drop it and suddenly everyone bought it. But it's because she earned long attention over time, building those relationships, building that relationship with her audience, building long attention and interest from millions of people. And so those three kind of things combine to create this bonfire of attention. Now how do you build that bonfire of attention? You have to go through what I call the seven captivation triggers. And these are seven psychological triggers I discovered over and over again that came up in my research that capture attention from immediate attention to long attention. So let me tell you about the first one-- automaticity. All right. So pop quiz. If you're a hitchhiker on the side of the road and you want to have the best chance of being picked up, what color shirt should you wear? Guesses? Red, white, I heard. What else? Orange. Yellow. I've heard everything. Actually, usually someone says "naked." You guys aren't dirty enough. It's too early in the day or something? It's a Monday. Fair enough. Maybe during Burning Man. So the answer is actually, it's gender specific. If you're a man, on average, any bright color will do because of the dark backgrounds of the black roads, and the dark green grass, and the brown dirt. But if you're a woman, and there was actually a French scientist who was like, I'm going to study this. He wanted to find out who would get picked up the most. So he had women wear six different colored shirts. And on average, someone would pull over about 13% of the time. Unless they were wearing the color red, in which case they were picked up 21% of the time. And the reason for that is actually our subconscious associations that we have with red and romanticism. In fact, another study found if you just put a thick red border around a person's face, the opposite gender, on average, we'll rate that person as more attractive. Reason why there's a red border there. I also just like having an excuse to put that picture up every time. But the opposite gender will rate that person as more attractive. And even there was another study that found that if a researcher is wearing a red shirt, a person who doesn't know will actually sit several inches closer to that person. It's like an automatic invitation to be more intimate. And so immediate attention is this automatic response to different stimuli. And it really comes down to two things-- contrast and association. And contrast is the contrast that something has with its surroundings, and association is the subconscious associations we have with a certain color, or symbol, or sound, based on our cultural history, based on our biology, based on other factors. And so a key to capturing attention with automaticity is to use the right color for the job. So example is Amazon. There's a reason why they use yellow and orange buttons. They have high contrast with their surroundings, with white and gray backgrounds. And they perform really well. But most bright colors will actually perform very well. However, give me some word association game. Give me words you think when you see this. "Dutch" is usually the first thing. Give me more. Anyone else? Usually someone says "prison." But actually, here's my point. AUDIENCE: White collar prison. BEN PARR: White collar-- there you go. So orange and yellow actually have the lowest correlation with competence. Teal and blue actually has the highest, which is why my cover has blue and teal on it. But think about it. If someone like this walked into most offices, maybe not Google, but most offices, you'd laugh their ass out of the room. And it's because of that correlation. And there's all these kind of different correlations we have with different colors and sounds. In fact, let's talk about smell. So this flower, I believe the Camellia flower, was used by Ralph Lauren in a perfume, and it performed really well. So like, let's expand it everywhere. So we're going to take it to South America. Problem is in South America, this specific flower is used in funerals. So when you sprayed it on, you literally smelled like death. How do you think that performed? Not well is the answer. Trigger number two-- framing. And so framing is that we pay attention to things that fall within our frame of reference or don't pay attention to things because of our frame of reference. And to describe this, I want to talk about deodorant. Anyone want some free deodorant? Specifically, I want to talk about a teenage entrepreneur named Edna Murphy.