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6 Ways to Use Neuroscience to Improve your Communication

15 December 2015

From author Nicholas C. Rossis:

The University of Florida recently announced a new book, aimed at giving people guidelines on how to communicate well in writing.

Yellowlees Douglas is an associate professor of management communication at the University of Florida. She wrote The Reader’s Brain: How Neuroscience Can Make You a Better Writer (Cambridge University Press, 2015), drawing on data from eye-tracking, EEG brain scans, and fMRI neuroimaging.

1. Prime Your Readers

“Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them.”

Few of us realize this advice has its roots in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. In recent decades, researchers have discovered that priming is a form of implicit learning. By merely exposing experimental subjects to lists of random words, researchers discovered the earlier exposure triggered accurate recall a day later—even though the subjects were unaware they would be tested later on the list.

When you tell readers your purpose in the first sentences of a memo, email, or proposal, you bolster their ease of comprehension and increase their recall of content later.

2. Use ‘Recency’ to Your Advantage

The last item in the “Tell them” triad refers to what psychologists call recency effects, which influence our ability to remember the last items we read. Recency effects extend to both short-term and long-term memory. Readers remember final sentences in paragraphs, items in lists, and paragraphs in documents more clearly than anything else they read.

Link to the rest at Nicholas C. Rossis and thanks to Suzie for the tip.

Here’s a link to Nicholas C. Rossis’ books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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11 Comments to “6 Ways to Use Neuroscience to Improve your Communication”

  1. Always be wary of any books or news articles about how your brain supposedly works! Maybe this is good writing advice, but it is highly unlikely to have anything to do with neuroscience. That’s a very fashionable domain for especially egregious pseudo-scientific reporting these days.
    If you want to read amusing debunkings of silly science, written by a bunch of witty linguists, check out the Language Log: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4203.

  2. QotD time …

    If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.

    I try to keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out. — Judge Harold T. Stone

    Don’t let your mind wander — it’s too little to be let out alone.

    First rule of public speaking. First, tell ’em what you’re goin’ to tell ’em; then tell ’em; then tell ’em what you’ve tole ’em.

  3. I know I’m ancient, but this was pounded into us during my 10th grade English class (some 60 years ago) during the famous five-paragraph essay sequence.

    In exactly those words. You can guess how the five paragraphs were to be disrtibuted.

  4. Many thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Am I the only one who feels an urge to do something evil with this knowledge? Um…

  6. I like Nicolas’s work. And this is not written by him but by some person from Fla uni.

    Im kinda taken aback. These are old saws, really old, have been around for two CENTURIES. And are taught absolutely in medical school, in etiquette classes for children. Not original. Common sense. Esp the first one, if you’ve ever been a parent or trained animals bigger than you.

    This comes from current research? Not sure why research if so, is needed for what has ever been folk wisdom and common sense. I’d say no cowpunch needs a ‘scientific’ anything in order to write a compassionate letter telling a solder his prime mare died while he was deployed.

  7. I learned these from Tongue and Quill in the Air Force in the ’80s. These were the official Air Force writing guidelines.

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