Tuesday, November 28, 2006

LINKS:Cognitive Seduction and the "peekaboo" law

COMMENTS: Very interesting.

Cognitive Seduction and the "peekaboo" law: "


Brains are turned on by puzzles. Brains are turned on by figuring things out. Brains are turned on by even the smallest 'aha' moments. And despite what some of you (*cough* men *cough*) might believe, the brain is more turned on by seeing just the arms of a naked woman behind a shower curtain than it is by seeing all of her. So if you're trying to engage someone's brain, don't show everything. Let their brain connect the dots.

At least, that's what the neuroscientists say in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind. In their article The Neurology of Aesthetics, our favorite brain guy V.S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran describe a series of 'laws' of aesthetics (they put 'laws' in quotes) and how they're supported by what we know of the brain. My favorite--and one that we've been talking about (minus the festive name) for a long time here--is known as Peekaboo.

From the article:

'An unclothed person who has only arms or part of a shoulder jutting out from behind a shower curtain or who is behind a diaphanous veil is much more alluring than a completely uncovered nude. Just as the thinking parts of our brain enjoy intellectual problem solving, the visual system seems to enjoy discovering a hidden object.

Evolution has seen to it that the very act of searching for the hidden object is enjoyable, not just the final 'aha' of recognition--lest you give up the chase.

Otherwise, we would not pursue a potential prey or mate glimpsed partially behind bushes or dense fog.'

If something dangerous is hiding in the bushes, it's damn useful for the brain to reconstruct a complete tiger from just a few bits of orange and black peeking out between the leaves. Apparently it's all the little mini-aha moments that send messages to the brain that prompt still more searches and more mini-ahas until the final BIG aha where your brain nails it.

It goes on:

'The clever fashion designer or artists tries to evoke as many mini 'ahas,' ambiguities, peak shifts and pardoxes as possible in the image.'

We're always trying to leave something to the reader/learner/observer's imagination. Something for them to fill in. (This relates to our earlier space between the notes post).

In my workshops and talks, I show a series of photos where things are not fully resolved... a face hidden behind a hand, a (potentially naked) woman staring intently at an object you can't quite see, the lower half of a young man suspended in air next to a tree, where you can't see the ground OR anything above his waist (is he hanging from the tree? on a trampoline? in the midst of an alien abduction?) To the brain, these 'Hmmm... what's the story here?' images are virtually irresistible. The brain needs to figure it out, and enjoys the experience.

This applies to non-visual things as well, of course. In learning, the more you fill things in and hold the learner's hand, the less their brain will engage. If they don't need to fire a single neuron to walk through the tutorial, lesson, lecture, etc., they're getting a shallow, surface-level, non-memorable exposure of 'covered' material, but... what's the point? Obviously this doesn't mean you just never tell them anything period. This is about graduated hints, mental teasing, cognitive treasure hunts, sparking curiosity, etc. Things that engage the brain. (This is part of the brain-friendly strategy we use in our books.)

Whether you're trying to get someone's attention, keep their attention, motivate them to stick with something, or help them to learn more deeply and retain what they've learned, leave something for their brain to resolve. Do something to turn their brain on.

[Disclaimer: this does NOT apply to something like reference docs, where you don't want their brain to become engaged. With reference material, I want to get them in and out as quickly as possible--with the accurate info they need--and where retention and recall is not a goal.]


(Via Robert's shared items in Google Reader.)


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