9 years, 2 months ago

Using Stories to Bridge the Attention Chasm

Link: http://workitsmart.blogspot.com/2012/11/using-stories-to-bridge-attention-chasm.html

Using Stories to Cross the “Attention Chasm”

Many people believe that the attention of audiences follow a U-shaped curve, where audiences remember mainly what said first and last during presentations, leaving a significant chunk of presented material in what I call the “attention chasm”.

Stories can help to bridge this chasm.  I recently watched the movie “The Lives of Others” (an excellent film by the way), and even though it was more than 2 hours long and was in a foreign language, I was amazed at all the details I remembered from the film!  And some of these details were not critical to the movie’s main story, like what presents were given at a birthday party and what was eaten for dinner.

Why are stories able to accomplish this, and what does this mean for me?  It is not easy to answer the first question, but I feel that in short, stories are able to bridge the attention chasm mainly because they weave loose pieces of information together into a coherent trajectory.  Details are carefully chosen to reinforce the characters of people in the plot; similarly, events are carefully selected to “tell the story”.  In comparison, presentations usually are looser amalgamation of information.  Moreover, stories appeal to human’s inert curiosity to find out what happened in other people’s lives!  (As such I thought the title “The Lives of Others” is an excellent choice from a film marketing standpoint)

For the second part of the earlier question, one answer that popped out at me is education.  Use stories to teach fact-heavy subjects such as history.  Instead of making students remember all the dates and events, have them watch related movies!  I can also consider using stories to bring together all the key points of a presentation.  It is a lot of work though, as I will need to think about the plot, the characters, etc.  Maybe airlines should consider using stories for the flight safety video!  It can be made interesting and humorous, and that would make life better for both the flight attendants and the passengers.

Stories’ ability to help their audiences retain large amount of information is fascinating.  I hope I will gain more insight on how to leverage this capability.