A purple cow stands out.
A well-known song played in a minor key fascinates.
An unexpected twist in a story you thought you knew the end to delights.
Humans owe our “need for surprise” to a part of our brain called Broca’s area. It’s a region in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere that is responsible for speech production. But it also anticipates the predictable. It scans the horizon of our day-to-day experience for anything new or unexpected. If it doesn’t see, hear or experience anything new or unexpected, it stays on auto-pilot; it glosses over the information, it forgets.
In order to attract attention, we must surprise broca. In order to keep that attention, we have to stay unpredictable.
Break the pattern and you’ll elevate attention. Stay tedious and you will be ignored.
The next time you sit down to write an appeal, craft a presentation, or develop a video script, remember this. If it sounds typical, it’ll bore your audience. If it surprises them, it’ll stay with them.