In the era of endless tweets, notifications, and news flashes, you're at an automatic disadvantage when trying to capture people's attention. Many of your employees, clients, and potential customers are more engaged with their smartphone than they are by you. You need to find ways to rise above the noise, because attracting their notice is crucial to your business and success as a leader.

"Attention is the most important currency that anybody can give you," Steve Rubel of public relations firm Edelman tells the Harvard Business Review. "It's worth more than money, possessions, or things."

Ben Parr, the former co-editor of Mashable and co-founder of venture capital firm DominateFund, just published his second book, Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention. He recounts in HBR what he learned in the course of his writing.

Parr says he discovered seven triggers while studying research in psychology and sociology and by speaking with subjects ranging from the illusionist David Copperfield to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. As a leader, he says, you need to know how the brain works, why people become attracted to certain content, and what motivates people's reward centers. Below are three studies that Parr says every leader needs to read.

"Frequency and the Conference of Referential Validity"

This study from the 1970s, conducted by Lynn Hasher and David Goldstein, is about how repetition can trump people's inherent frames of reference and bias. "These frames of reference lead us to embrace and pay attention to some ideas and to ignore others entirely," Parr writes. "To leverage this trigger, you have to either adapt to your audience's frame or change it." To change someone's frame of reference, the study found, repeat a statement or sentiment over and over--eventually, people will start to believe it. 

"Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth"

This 2008 study, written by Lawrence E. Williams and John A. Bargh, found that exposing people to kindness and warmth will make them more friendly and generous toward you. Parr says subtle acts of unexpected kindness can "play on people's instincts." "For example, try giving a star prospect or client a hot cup of coffee or tea," Parr writes.

"Expert Financial Advice Neurobiologically 'Offloads' Financial Decision-Making Under Risk"

This 2009 study, by Emory University neuro-economist Greg Berns, found that when experts give us advice, the "decision-making centers of our brains slow or even shut down," Parr writes. If you want to capture people's undivided attention, and control their decision-making, learn how to invoke this phenomenon. "So, especially if you're trying to capture the attention of people who don't know you, feel free to lead with your credentials, establish your expertise, and cite others who are most knowledgeable on the topic at hand," Parr writes.

Published on: Mar 5, 2015