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This is Your Brain on Content: Cognitive Science Lessons for Content Strategy

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A 'director's cut' of my Biological Imperative for Adaptive Content session from earlier this year.

The thesis: semantic, structured content is more suited to our brains natural functioning and mechanisms than traditional, unstructured content. It’s counter-intuitive, but is it true?

Our basic understanding of communicating content has changed. Under the pressures of multi-channel and multi-device content challenges, the old rules we learned about good content and processes are breaking down. How do we optimize for all this diversity?

Contemporary research in cognitive science and neurobiology can offer us new ways of thinking about communication at a basic, human level. This session could be considered a study in empathy, looking at how we can break out of our current mindsets, deconstruct old habits, and see justification for new ones around user needs. It offers cognitive science
and neurolobiology lessons relevant to today’s content landscape, and a common language to help you bridge the communication issues with your clients, colleagues, managers, and end users.

This session will cover models and methodologies to better structure content, optimize editorial processes, and build effective, influential strategies couched in the most human of terms.

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This is Your Brain on Content: Cognitive Science Lessons for Content Strategy

  1. 1. This is your brain on content @nozurbina #lavacon urbinaconsulting.com/about-you Cognitive Science lessons for content strategy
  2. 2. @nozurbina #LavaCon This is your brain on content: Cognitive Science lessons for content strategy Noz Urbina Founder and Content Strategist Urbina Consulting urbinaconsulting.com/about-you
  3. 3. @nozurbinaMe (Noz Urbina) Content strategist & modeller Consultant/trainer Author Futurist H2H (Human-Human/B2B/B2C) urbinaconsulting.com/events 89 3929 31 x88 24g UC.com 2015 thecontentstrategybook.com
  4. 4. The problem 4
  5. 5. @nozurbinaEmpathy 5 Go from reactive to proactive
  6. 6. @nozurbinaSources and reviewers @nozurbina - 6 MIT & Stanford Lectures Slides, models & drafts reviewed by Clinical Psychologist Alberto Soler & Kontchín Soler, PhD in Psychobiology
  7. 7. To influence behaviour… …we must understand behaviour Behaviour starts and ends in the mind http://bit.ly/brainneb
  8. 8. We need to (constantly) redefine @nozurbina - 8 http://bit.ly/1cqjUbv
  9. 9. Communication and the mind http://bit.ly/brainneb The topic
  10. 10. Intelligent Content supports our biological, mental processes better than traditional content http://bit.ly/brainneb The thesis
  11. 11. WE ARE SENSE MAKING MACHINES We’ll make it up if we have to 11
  12. 12. @nozurbinaBABY 12
  13. 13. Semantic models 13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/denverjeffrey/ Semantic models are semi- conscious mental storage units.
  14. 14. Do you want to make me cry? 14 Prevent me from building my semantic models.
  15. 15. QUALITY CHECK How good are our models? 15
  16. 16. 16 Our models and processing clearly aren’t perfect
  17. 17. Thinking Systems 2 and 1 17 Brain economics and the cost/benefit of cognition
  18. 18. @nozurbinaThinking System 2 • Plays poker and chess (unless you’re a master, and can use System 1) • Contains our conscious experience • Analyses, reflects on and digests content • Taxed when learning new skills • Delegates to System 1 whenever possible 18 S l o o o w “Expensive” Tiring
  19. 19. @nozurbinaThinking System 1 • “The zone”, “the gut”, “the heart”, “lateral thinking” and inspiration • Drives, plays violin (any embedded skill) • Picks up on body language, style, mood, metaphor, symbolism, etc. (using associative memory) • Uses compression & semantic models • Skims content (using keywords, colour, shapes and other fast cues) 19 Fast! “Cheap” (Nearly) Effortless
  20. 20. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE Answer these questions (in your head) 20
  21. 21. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE What’s your first name? 21
  22. 22. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE What month were you born? 22
  23. 23. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE Now, remember these two number sets: 5876 2117 23
  24. 24. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE Increment each digit of each set UP by one 24
  25. 25. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE Did you get this? 6987 3228 25 (5876 2117)
  26. 26. WATCH THEM FIGHT A different kind of illusion 26
  27. 27. @nozurbina3,141 Counties All the counties with lowest incidence of kidney cancer are: 27 1. Mostly rural 2. Sparsely populated 3. Traditionally Republican 4. Located in Midwest, South and West
  28. 28. @nozurbina3,141 Counties - Fact 2 All the counties with highest incidence of kidney cancer are: 28 1. Mostly rural 2. Sparsely populated 3. Traditionally Republican 4. Located in Midwest, South and West
  29. 29. @nozurbina WTF? 29
  30. 30. @nozurbina1 = cancer 01010001100101001010101111010101 01010110000100001000111110111101 00100101010101110010100101010101 01010100001010101110010100101010 10101010100001000010001111101111 01001001010101011100101001010101 01010101000010100011001010010101 01111010101010101010101011100101 00101010101010101010101010111110 31 Even professional statisticians screw this up!We want to. Small samples are always more extreme and less accurate Bill Gates Foundation and US Government blew millions on this 28% 60% 71% 0% 42% 100% 57% 60%
  31. 31. @nozurbina Funny is the brain’s reward for debugging • We are rewarded for finding patterns • We get stressed when patterns are not present 32 Matthew Hurley, Reginald Adams, Jr., Dan Dennett
  32. 32. @nozurbina 33
  33. 33. 34 System 1 can: Read and understand large- print and/or familiar words Complete the phrase “bread and…” Drive a car on an empty road Get which country is referred to by: “Stars and stripes, Apple pie, and optimism” Find the “submit” button on a form System 2 can: Try to reason out the meaning of new words (if System 1 doesn’t offer up a satisfying definition) Drive in heavy traffic or adverse weather conditions Search for an address on a row of houses Compare two products to establish their overall value
  34. 34. @nozurbina System 1 says these are the same. System 2 can realise they really aren’t.
  35. 35. @nozurbina System 1 uses compression to take the fundamentals from the right and match it to the model on the left.
  36. 36. @nozurbina http://wtface.com/ WTFace.com Compression creates errors. We see what is not really there (Look up pareidolia and apophenia)
  37. 37. COMPRESSION ERROR ILLUSIONS Experience vs. Memory 38
  38. 38. @nozurbinaWho suffered more? Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient A Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient B
  39. 39. @nozurbinaWho suffered more? Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient A Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient B
  40. 40. Memory trumps experience …what we get to keep from our experiences is a story. What defines a story are changes, significant moments and endings. Endings are very, very important. The remembering self is a storyteller 41
  41. 41. THE EXPERIENCE TO IDENTITY PYRAMID The semantic ladder for anything with interactivity 43
  42. 42. 44 I.D. (identity) Model Category Pattern Memory (story) Experience Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  43. 43. @nozurbina Brain GPS Quanta Magazine simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20141007-brains-positioning-system-linked-to-memory/
  44. 44. @nozurbina Brain GPS Quanta Magazine It’s the most efficient way to compress data” Marianne Hafting Fyhn, Neuroscientist, University of Oslo in Norway simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20141007-brains-positioning-system-linked-to-memory/
  45. 45. Our brains reward the creation of new models and IDs But it’s always “cheaper” to relate new ones to old ones http://bit.ly/brainneb
  46. 46. 48 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dopamineseratonin.png Dopamine is the brain’s “reward” chemical. If activated, it will cause the hippocampus to create a more potent “write” to long term memory. I.D. Models Categories Patterns Memories Experiences Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  47. 47. 49 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dopamineseratonin.png Memories created in the presence of dopamine are recalled and pushed up the Experience-I.D. Pyramid more easily. I.D. Models Categories Patterns Memories Experiences Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  48. 48. @nozurbina 50 Today’s web uses these same constructs. E.g. Hashtag searches on G+ pull associated concepts, just like in the mind’s associative, semantic model-based storage.
  49. 49. HOW WILL YOUR BRAND STAND UP TO COMPRESSION? 51
  50. 50. @nozurbina 52 http://3rdbillion.net/2014/01/apple-logo-2/
  51. 51. INTELLIGENT CONTENT Intelligent content enables agility from experience to identity 53
  52. 52. @nozurbina 54 Intelligent Content The Mind Free from format, i.e., takes messages and meaning across devices, styles. Compresses out details, retains only the key content memory. Rich in metadata – uses tagging to make associations. Associative by nature. Uses structured content models. Builds models and uses them frequently and easily. Machine-validation-ready and reusable to make diverse yet consistent stories. “Likes” finding patterns and consistency using System 1. Gets tired out by needing to parse inconsistency, which needs System 2.
  53. 53. @nozurbina 55 Intelligent Content The Mind Free from format, i.e., takes messages and meaning across devices, styles. Compresses out details, retains only the key content memory. Rich in metadata – uses tagging to make associations. Associative by nature. Uses structured content models. Builds models and uses them frequently and easily. Machine-validation-ready and reusable to make diverse yet consistent stories. “Likes” finding patterns and consistency using System 1. Gets tired out by needing to parse inconsistency, which needs System 2.
  54. 54. @nozurbina 56 Intelligent Content The Mind Free from format, i.e., takes messages and meaning across devices, styles. Compresses out details, retains only the key content memory. Rich in metadata – uses tagging to make associations. Associative by nature. Uses structured content models. Builds models and uses them frequently and easily. Machine-validation-ready and reusable to make diverse yet consistent stories. “Likes” finding patterns and consistency using System 1. Gets tired out by needing to parse inconsistency, which needs System 2.
  55. 55. @nozurbina 57 Intelligent Content The Mind Free from format, i.e., takes messages and meaning across devices, styles. Compresses out details, retains only the key content memory. Rich in metadata – uses tagging to make associations. Associative by nature. Uses structured content models. Builds models and uses them frequently and easily. Machine-validation-ready and reusable to make diverse yet consistent stories. “Likes” finding patterns and consistency using System 1. Gets tired out by needing to parse inconsistency, which needs System 2.
  56. 56. Your creators and customers will internalise your models
  57. 57. Your creators and customers will internalise your models
  58. 58. @nozurbina Simplified model… 60 of complex reality
  59. 59. @nozurbina Intelligent content supports tailored delivery Manage Serve & Transform Create components ProfileA ProfileB ProfileC ProfileD Same content Everyone …with WPT/ processing tools …in CCMS (Structure -aware) …in structured Authoring Tool(s) ???
  60. 60. Your System 1 does everything it can to restore the status quo. SO NOW WHAT?
  61. 61. SOME PARTING THOUGHTS
  62. 62. @nozurbinaAttitude shift Stop framing the user in the window of the medium. Assumptions and analytics aren’t enough. Find out who they really are.
  63. 63. @nozurbinaEmbrace structure 65 Check out bit.ly/artofgrid for great designer quotes about “ the grid system”
  64. 64. HOMEWORK Specific lessons and terms to take home 66 (some of which are in our book. Nudge nudge, wink wink)
  65. 65. @nozurbinaEmbrace Intelligent Content • Write for system 1 and system 2 • Explicitly define the semantic models implicit in your content – Map out the different perspectives and contexts in which content will be used • Give creators clear tools to create and visualise their work across contexts • Store semantic content so machines validate it and can help you deliver tailored experiences 67
  66. 66. @nozurbinaEmbrace Intelligent Content • Measure user memory of whole journeys – UX is just a means to an end – Digital alone CANNOT SHOW a customer’s full journey • Set up your team properly – “Chief content officer” and “chief experience officers” are becoming real things – Get content creators, strategists, engineers (and the rest) who understand the value-add of each other’s work • Start bashing your boss’s System 1 and 2 68

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