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How does your brain decide what is significant?

Posted on August 10, 2018

How does your brain decide what is significant?

How does your brain decide what is significant?

Neuroscience tells us that our brain has an “air traffic controller” called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).  Its job is to filter through the millions of incoming impulses and determine which ones our brain will pay attention to.

For example, have you ever been driving along and realize your mind was completely elsewhere?  And wondered how you had been able to successfully drive when you have no memory of the last 10 minutes?  That is your RAS at work.  It was busy scanning for anything unusual, but since you were just humming along with traffic on the freeway, it just put the active attention part of your brain “to sleep”.

The RAS is primarily looking for 2 things: to avoid pain or gain pleasure.  If it has seen something before, and it doesn’t represent pain or pleasure, it ignores it. 

As speakers, we need to understand that we MUST get the Reticular Activating System’s attention early, then “wake” it up periodically throughout our talk.  This means being very clear in the beginning either with what problem we are solving or what benefit we are offering.

If we aren’t delivering clarity to our audience,
how will we make a significant impact?

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