By: Dr. James McFarland, People Scientist

We all have our preferred way of gathering information from the world. Some of us read, many of us watch television or interact with social media, and some of us even prefer to take in our information via the structure of online or in-person meetings (remember those?). In all these scenarios, visual cues often dominate the human learning experience, however, the simple act of listening makes a unique contribution to how we learn and process information.

A recent study published in PLOS ONE found that individuals use a subtly different set of skills and attributes when they are listening to information. In this study, the researchers identified the dispositional traits associated with podcast listeners and found that individuals who are focused on listening tended to score higher in openness to experience, interest-based curiosity, and the need for cognition. In effect, the study found that focused listening is highly associated with informational motives on the part of the consumer, perhaps even more so than with visual learning.

Marketers need to keep this in mind when formulating messages for consumers. Especially when audio plays a large role or is the primary medium relaying your messages (such as podcasts or radio). In these cases, make sure your audio messages are unique, and informative, and require your audience to employ (just a little) cognitive effort. By standing out in these ways, your ads will be especially appealing to the listening brain searching for a new experience.

Three quick tips to make sure your audio messages will have the maximum impact:

  1. Make it unique. Your audio needs to clearly differentiate itself from the information that may have been presented prior or after. This might be as simple as having a catchy jingle that stands out from the crowd, or a surprising sound that listeners did not expect to encounter in that specific context.
  2. Make it informative. Without being overwhelming, be sure to include the key information about your product or service. The listening brain wants to learn something of value, something it didn’t know before your commercial started, and you don’t want to leave it feeling disappointed.
  3. Make it cerebral. This is one of those times when including some stats, trivia, or maybe a brain teaser can be a very good thing. Again, don’t overwhelm your listener, but be sure to include enough so that the listening brain can stretch its “legs” and feel a sense of cognitive accomplishment when the commercial ends.

That’s all for this week! To better understand consumer psychology and to find out more about effectively focusing your audio-based messages, be sure to give us a call at 833-579-1905 or email us at

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