Science of Listener Attention
February 28, 2009 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Is the Science of Listener Attention a real thing? If not, is there anything similar I can learn?

On an episode of the West Wing, Toby said this:

"You want the benefits of free trade? Food is cheaper. Food is cheaper, clothes are cheaper, steel is cheaper, cars are cheaper, phone service is cheaper. You feel me building a rhythm here? That's 'cause I'm a speechwriter and I know how to make a point. It lowers prices, it raises income. You see what I did with "lowers" and "raises" there? It's called the science of listener attention. We did repetition, we did floating opposites and now you end with the one that's not like the others. Ready? Free trade stops wars. And that's it. Free trade stops wars! And we figure out a way to fix the rest! One world, one peace. I'm sure I've seen that on a sign somewhere."

Is their such a thing as the science of listener attention? Where can I learn it? If not, is there anything similar I can learn to improve my presentations?
posted by chrisalbon to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know that cognitive and social psychologists have spent time researching the conditions under which people are most attentive to incoming information (Richard Petty is a good start). I assume that Communications has something to say about this as well.
posted by proj at 10:47 AM on February 28, 2009

Perhaps look into studying rhetoric?
posted by cider at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2009

You might be interested in this frontline episode.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 11:10 AM on February 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

As cider mentioned, what he's talking about is rhetoric, which very much used to be the science of listener attention before "science" became "Science!". Cultural studies has a lot good applied understanding of this. Davenport and Beck have a book called The Attention Economy that theorizes the currency of attention a little more globally.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:17 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

This would be an excellent place to start.
posted by EarBucket at 2:53 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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