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Salience

The effect of salience is very simple. What stands out more is remember more.

Underlying Psychology/Biases

This happens due to evolutionary reasons. The things that stood out, in the past, were usually predators or, at least, dangerous things. So, evolutionarily, we have a tendency to be very aware of things that stand out.

Sub-Techniques

There are four key ways to leverage salience in persuasion:

  • By itself
    • Just standing out more;
    • Being more extravagant, having different clothing, different names, etc;
    • It’s important to note that salience is relative
      • This is the reason for echo chambers, extremism, and product cost spirals;
      • When everyone is average, you can be a little bit extreme and stand out. When everyone is somewhat extreme, you must be even more to stand out;
      • When all products have average pricing, you can be a bit cheaper (or more expensive) to stand out. When most of them are cheap (or expensive), you have to be even more to stand out;
    • Salience is also disproportionate:
      • In other words, if something stands out a little bit more, it’s more remembered, but if it stands out a lot, it will never be forgotten;
      • The reason for the bizarreness bias (below). Being a bit salient stands out, being completely weird and different means you’ll definitely remember it;
      • This also affects the other things you remember:
        • Something being slightly salient means you remember it a little bit more and remember other things a little bit less;
        • Something being very salient means you absolutely remember it, but you can also completely forget other things;
        • A type of inattentional blindness;
        • In short, if you stand out a lot with the right things, it doesn’t really matter what else you do wrong;
        • It’s an interesting parallel with specialization.
          • If you’re enough of a specialist at what you do well, then it doesn’t really matter all the other things you’re bad at. But if you’re just slightly specialized, then you will need be judged by all the things you “kind of” do;
          • If stand out enough, people will only remember what stood out and disregard what else you did wrong. But if you only stand out a little bit, you will be evaluated on the whole of your presentation;
  • Using supernatural stimuli
    • Exaggerated versions of things that appeal to our sense;
    • Fast food burgers – or other food advertisement – always makes them seem very juicy, very tender, very delicious;
    • Fitness models always seem to have super athletic bodies, exaggerated proportions, and in the specific case of women, enhanced eyes, shinier lips, and so on;
  • Using bizarreness
    • As mentioned, salience is disproportionate. This is the reason for the bizarreness effect.
      • If someone dresses in a very different way, or speaks in a radically different way, or is just completely different from everyone/everything else, it will not be forgotten at all;
    • Let’s say you’re watching some presenters in a corporate environment
      • One of them has a nicer suit then the others. You may remember them a little bit more;
      • One of them shows up in a unicorn onesie rather than a suit. You will never forget that one;
  • Using the peak-end effect or the recency/primacy effect
    • These, in specific, change what is remembered during a presentation or event;
    • The peak-end effect dictates that you remember the highlight and the end of a presentation;
      • In short, if you’re presenting, you want to make sure there is a high point during the presentation and that you end on a high note;
    • The recency/primacy effect dictates that you remember the first and last things of a presentation;
      • According to this model, you want to start on a high note and end on one as well;
      • A great example is Granville Toogood‘s OREO Model;
        • A presentation should be just like an OREO cookie:
          • Strong chocolate, filling, strong chocolate;
          • Strong start, then the middle, then strong ending;
    • Both models can work, and what they have in common is the closing on a high note element, which is the reason why this advice is echoed regardless of what you do;

Examples

In UPP:

  • Entropy compression
    • Entropy compression is an example of salience;
    • Large patches of similar data are easily compressed. Unique, specific ones are not;
    • In short, what “stands out” is not easily compressed. What is “boring” is;
  • “That was a great speaker”
    • The peak-end effect at work. If a present had a highlight during the presentation and ended on a high note, chances are, regardless of whatever else happened, you will think they were a great speaker;
  • Unexpected giving
    • One of the reasons why unexpected giving works so well is that it stands out a lot. Sometimes, it’s even actually bizarre;
    • Everyone expects to receive a present on their birthday. But no hiring manager expects to receive a “thank you” card from a candidate. Or any prospect a free book during a sales call;
  • Crayon color names
    • The reason why nowadays, crayon color names are not “yellow” or “green” anymore, but “tropical yellow” or “savannah green”, among others, is salience;
    • In the past, the standard names would do the trick. But as more and more brands started coming up with extravagant names, all of them became more extravagant as well to keep up;

Others:

  • PETA
    • A very simple example of an NGO that stands out (possibly, the one that stands out the most);
    • Doing things such as paying people’s bills if they turn vegan, doing controversial protests and others;
    • Regardless of whether you agree with them or not, they do stand out;

Commercial/Known Uses

  • Granville Toogood‘s OREO Model for presentations (start strong, then the middle, then finish strong. Strong chocolate, filling, strong chocolate);

Key Takeaways

  • Salience is very simple. What stands out more is remembered more easily.
    • It’s disproportionate. Something a little bit salient is remembered a little bit more. Something very salient is absolutely remembered;
    • It’s relative. It’s easy to stand out when nobody else does. When others do, you need to stand out even more. The reason for extremism;
  • There are multiple methods to leverage salience. Just standing out more, using bizarreness or being unique, supernatural stimuli, or during presentations/events themselves using methods such as the peak-end effect or the recency/primacy one;
  • Salience can be used both for information itself (to change what stands out among other things) but also for presentations (to change, within a presentation, what stands out);
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