Stop and Think

You know what it is like. There are thousands of messages seeking your ever diminishing attention – email, twitter, advertising, friends, family, phone calls – you name it, it wants you. And the demands seem to mount ever higher.

Think about technology and social media. Think about the way the next new thing arrives and sweeps us along. Do you jump early? Do you sign up for the beta program so that you can brag to your friends on Facebook? Or do you wait … see what the early adopters say and determine where to spend your precious attention?

What’s your personal strategy?

To many people, the pursuit of the latest, shiny thing seems ludicrous. You can almost hear them thinking “don’t change what isn’t broke”. But it appears there is more than ego and self interest at play in our ongoing obsession with the new, new thing.

For those who are new to social media (or technology or even any other field of endeavour), coping with the constant change and innovation can be overwhelming. It presents as “noise” rather than signal”. But recent research in the field of cognitive fluency suggests that the very act of submitting ourselves to the unfamiliar has the effect of making the unfamiliar, familiar. Cognitive fluency is a measure of how easy it is for us to think about something. Where there is a “blockage” in our processing, we experience this as a “sense” of disfluency – we have to allocate our scarce cognitive resources to analyse and process the information. It triggers a sensory alarm which urges us to trust less.

The interesting aspect here is that cognitive fluency manifests largely as what we would call “gut instinct”. This means that almost any stimulus, from the shape of a face to the typography of a sign can cause us to intuitively TRUST or DISTRUST what we see/hear/feel.

The impact of truly understanding cognitive fluency (and its opposite) for marketers is profound. If we transfer a sense of “difficulty” to do with wording, typeface, design etc to a product, then this will impact our sense of the brand and its role (or potential) in our lives. Some DISFLUENCY may even be useful for some products or services where you really want people to think through and consider what’s on offer.

The interesting thing is that we can modify and work with cognitive fluency. We can employ marketing and communications techniques to transform the way that people “understand” our products ands services. We can work to change not just behaviour but also response and engagement.

All we need to do is stop and think.

2 thoughts on “Stop and Think

  1. I like cognitive fluency applied to this topic.
    My own behavior is trying to test everything early, but avoiding to go too much in depth. I’ll then get back later to the new tool, sharing and applying tips on how to use it at best.
    I did this with Wave and will do the same with Buzz. 🙂
    What about you, Gavin, how do you handle your cognitive fluency?

  2. I will definitely look into cognitive fluency more, but I can say that it makes perfect sense to me. When the part of my brain that experiences new things is stimulated often, the more I like new things. When I start to fall into routines, the less I like them. I find for media consumption and creative productivity, I have to find a balance. But there is self interest too. If a client asks me if I’ve used Buzz, I have to be able to say yes truthfully.

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