The information presented here is a synopsis of the first chapter of the book, Impossible to Ignore, by Carmen Simon.
Introduction to Becoming More Memorable
I’ve been studying psychology for a while now because of its relevance to the creation of humanlike AI. During this time, I have found various pieces of information which are are relevant for both AI development and everyday use. Among these is the answer to the following question:
How do I become more memorable?
You can become more memorable by associating yourself with others’ habits and goals. People will also be more likely to remember you if they associate you with effective proportions. You also need to balance certain memory-enhancers correctly and differentiate yourself from others.
To be memorable, you need to be the red in a sea of blue.
Using Reflexes, Goals, and Habits to Become Memorable
Humans act based on reflexes, goals, and habits. Reflexes are fixed patterns of action, while goals and habits can be changed in response to new information.
All mammals are capable of this. In fact, studies show that when rats memorize the routes on mazes that lead to food, even they are often able to change their normal route when the food is moved to a new location. And how much greater is a human that a rat!
Adaptive rats traveling through the maze show they understand that different actions lead to different outcomes. This proves that goal-oriented behavior produces conscious adaptation based on a remembered mental representation. This differentiates it from habit- and reflex- oriented behaviors which are quite difficult to change when new information is presented.
Why does the distinction matter?
The mistake some people make when trying to influence others’ memory is that they overestimate the importance of goals and underestimate the impact of existing habits.
Consider the following common error:
Imagine an executive who asserts that everyone in his organization must complete a new sales training program.
He presents it as a program that will help each individual make more money and assumes that each employee will share that goal in equal proportion.
The novelty of the program has people interested at first, but the interest wears off after a few days, the program has not produced habits within the participants, and the executive’s lofty visions for his employees collapse when the program fails to provide enough incentives for employees to remain with it.
So the employees abandon the program, and they soon forget what they had learned. Now it is as though the training had never happened.
This is what commonly happens when people are encouraged to adopt something which lacks immediate rewards and that is not integrated into their daily routines.
Abandonment and amnesia become inevitable.
In order to teach someone something new and have them remember it, you must find a way for them to integrate it into their normal habits. Then they will remember you out of habit and without further reinforcement.
Influence Others’ Memory by Mastering Proportion
Many techniques are used to influence memory, and the skill which encompasses their proper use is proportion. In order to be memorable, you need to select a few elements to use and balance them in correct proportions.
A few drops of hot sauce can liven up a meal, but too much can render food inedible.
The same is true for memory cues. To become memorable, you need to know which cues are worth using in the first place, and then you need to use them in the proper amounts.
Moreover, when cues are combined to create memorable content, the combination must be such so that the memories we create for our audience are ones which we want them to have.
Now, in order to decide which memories we would like people to have, we need to clearly understand what memory is. This definition is important because most people have their own personal notions of what memory is, and these conflicting ideas make discussing the topic difficult..
What Is Memory?
Memory is the picture that comes to mind when you ponder your favorite food.
It is the ability to ride a bike even though you haven’t done so in over a decade.
It is your choice to take the same route to work every day.
And it is every piece of useless trivia you’ve ever acquired and failed to forget.
Humans have several memory systems, and it is best to describe them as those processes which we use to encode, store, and retrieve information.
We can also classify memory by its duration, by our ability to verbalize what we remember, and by its ability to enable us to perform tasks.
However, no matter how we classify memory, all memories consist of associations between neurons such so that the activation of one leads to the activation of others.
So, to become memorable, one must learn to activate another person’s neurons. This realization then prompts the question:
“How do we activate others’ neurons?”
We can activate the neurons of another person with the help of one or more of fifteen variables.
The Fifteen Variables which Influence Memory
All memory is dependent upon collections of neurons firing simultaneously. These neurons are triggered by one or more of the following fifteen factors.
The fifteen variables which influence memory are:
– quantity of information
– self-generated content
– sensory intensity
– social aspects
– and surprise
These are the fifteen factors which influence memory, and in order to become memorable, we must become masters of using these to our advantage.
We’ll never be able to use them all simultaneously, nor will we be able to have complete control over them as they pertain to our target audience. That’s okay.
The proper method of using these factors to our advantage is by selecting a few which work well together and integrating them into a strategy meant to target those people who are most likely to be persuaded by that factor combination.
Make a Framework
We often start creating content from a place of abundance. We have too much information and too many ways to present it. We then feel tempted to present everything we have, and the result is that we overload our audience.
To avoid this temptation, it is best to establish a framework for presenting information and to then select information which functions well within that framework.
We need to select a handful of the fifteen factors and focus on those.
Framework & Ordering
After you establish a framework within which to present the fifteen factors, you will need to determine the proper placement of elements within that framework.
The placement of elements will cause some to be emphasized while others have their importance reduced.
To emphasize your most important elements, you will want to use three effects: the primacy effect, the recency effect, and salience.
The primacy effect causes elements which are presented first in a series to automatically become emphasized.
The recency effect emphasizes elements which come last.
And salience is the property of a thing which stands out relative to its neighbors. This often occurs because the salient thing contrasts strongly with its surroundings.
If you see a single red tile in a collection of blue tiles, then your attention is automatically drawn to it because it is different. That tile has salience.
So it is often to your advantage to position your most important design elements at the beginning and ending of a sequence and to ensure that the important ones which must be placed in the middle are surrounded by lesser elements which will cause contrast.
The type of stimulus you present to trigger your audience’s memory is not nearly as important as the context within which it is presented. The important elements must be properly balanced with the lesser ones.
And you use the power of contrast to achieve this effect.
If you create a pattern and then break it, people will remember the elements at the end of the pattern more strongly because those were the ones which surprised them.
Knowing this leads us to the question,
“What is the proper way to create a pattern, and when should we break it?”
Concerns about this question have left many marketers awake for many nights on end. Fortunately, it has an answer. Unfortunately, the answer is unpleasant.
There isn’t a rule for establishing or breaking patterns in a positive and memorable way. If you’re looking for a formula for maximizing the effect of contrast, then you can stop looking. It doesn’t exist.
There is no such thing as a “right” time to use contrast, nor is there such a thing as a “wrong” time to use it. Some times are merely better than others.
The power of contrast operates in terms of better and worse, and it does not operate in terms of right and wrong.
In practice, this means that you’ll need to trust your feelings when you want to know if the time is appropriate to break a chain with the power of contrast.
If you are new to marketing, then the thought of being forced to rely on your instincts may worry you. Don’t worry about that. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, and you’ll develop your instincts more quickly than you think.
And that’s the foolproof way to create memorable content.
You pick the factors you want to focus on, you create a framework where you can present them, and then you arrange the factors in that framework so that you can draw attention to the things you want your audience to remember. Meanwhile, find a way to integrate yourself into your audience’s habits, and allow them to associate you with their goals.
Remember: You have to be the red in a sea of blue.
If you found this article to be valuable, then please consider checking out the book Impossible to Ignore, by Carmen Simon for more information on the proper methods for using the fifteen factors to your fullest advantage.