Over the years, in a number of locations, there is a common theme to the way our senses were created, namely, that they sense change. Here are some examples:
- Touch – Classic experiment, take one hand put it in a bucket of cold water, another in a bucket of hot water and let them sit for a couple of minutes, then put both hands in the same bucket of lukewarm water – The result, one hand feels cold, the other warm. An example with less setup, is to touch something like your trousers, you’ll be able to sense the texture, wait 30 seconds, you probably don’t even sense you are touching something any more.
- Smell – The mere fact that anyone lives in Greeley or even visits there. The reality is that it stinks, but only for a few minutes, then you stop noticing it. [and to be fair, it doesn’t always stink in Greeley]. This is also why there are now air freshners that change the scent every 30 minutes.
- Taste – The first bite of ice cream is usually the best bite. The last bite usually doesn’t have nearly the flavor that the first one did [though it’s usually still quite enjoyable]. If you eat lots of salty food, you won’t notice it as much as someone who does not eat lots of salt.
- Vision– There are several examples of this (like looking at a map that has color and then moving over and looking at a white sheet of paper and seeing an echo of the previous image). Another book I read mentioned that, while it’s almost impossible to do because your eyes make small movements continuously, if you stare at something without moving your eyes, it will slowly become gray.
- Sound- Ever had the electrical power die in your office. The silence following all of the computer fans turning off is shocking. Yet, your probably didn’t realize just how noisy your work environment was.
But it’s more than just our senses, it’s also what we pay attention to. Things that are moving, changing draw us in, things that are static get moved out of our awareness. This is why video is such a compelling media – it draws in our ears and eyes to pay atttention to a nearly continual set of changes. This is also why when your screen saver turns on and you are talking with your collegue, they suddenly look over your shoulder and have a hard time maintaining eye contact.
We can use this to our advantage however. If we want to make sure we pay attention to something, we need to make sure it doesn’t just blend into the background (ever put something by the door so you don’t forget it, you’re already making use of this). If we want our customers to notice our product, it can’t just be the same as something else that we’ve also become accustom to. If you want to have a fresh experience for something that you do all the time, find a way to vary it.