March 7, 2022

Attention Span vs. Consideration Span - Why You Should Know The Difference

Think you have a short attention span? Lucky for you, it’s probably not the case.

Most of us are able to focus intently on things that we care about, be it movies, books or podcasts.

Whether it's due to novelty, allure or our interest in the medium through which it passes, our ability to stay fixated on one thing proves that we don’t have a poor attention span.

What we really have.. is a short consideration span.

Consideration Span

From the minute we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, there are countless points in between in which our attention is targeted.

The radio that plays whilst we make breakfast slips an ad in every now and again.

The ads want us to listen to the end, where they plug their website.

The website hooks you with a slick phrase in order to get you to buy their product or service.

And if that wasn’t enough, they’ll ask for permission to email you every other day until you opt-out, so that they can sell to you again and again.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”
– Jeff Hammerbacher

We’re in the age of the attention economy; our attention is a scarce commodity that everyone fights for. And everyone has something to sell.

So what happens when a million products are shoved in front of your face every day? You get picky. You learn to tune out the noise and focus on what really matters to you. And it becomes harder for people to hold your attention because it’s been abused so many times.

But even still, we watch two-hour films and listen to captivating speakers with unwavering attention

It follows then, that our attention span is still present but our consideration span for paying attention has drastically shortened.

The ‘Consideration Test’

To satisfy one’s ‘consideration span’ to pay further attention is to pass the ‘consideration test’.

The consideration test is a sort of trust, one that has to be built up over time if it's to be long-lasting.

But it can also be temporary and situational. When we watch an engaging advertisement, we place a temporary trust in our advertiser that we won’t regret affording them our attention.

This temporary trust can be gamed and built upon through novelty, intrigue and storytelling. It’s how TV shows, YouTubers and bloggers all fight for your initial consideration to pay attention for a little longer, to trust that it’ll all be worth it.

If you go on to pay further attention to what they have to offer, they’ve successfully passed the consideration test.

When we watch our favourite shows, we don’t spend the first minutes of every show considering whether it’ll be worth sticking around, they’ve already passed the consideration test, so we submit our attention more easily the next time.

But that doesn’t mean the trust can’t be broken. We’ve all experienced a lack of interest in a show and given up on it. We gave them our attention and they didn’t live up to our expectations. Now, if they want us to continue watching, they’ll have to pass the consideration test once again.

How to Beat the Consideration Test

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to pass the consideration test. Through businesses, youtube videos and weekly newsletters, I’ve experienced a broad range of mediums that have given me an idea of what works and what doesn’t:

  1. Hooks aren’t just for new eyes.
    A ‘hook’ is something that grabs someone’s attention. Think about a very catchy blog title, or interesting Youtube video thumbnail. Hooks help with attracting people who may not have previously paid attention to what you have to offer, but it also ensures that existing audiences continue to pay attention.
  2. Mediums matter.
    Being popular on TikTok isn’t the same as being popular on Youtube. The mediums are completely different, and therefore the attention users afford are also different. Just because you passed the consideration test for a 15-second TikTok, doesn’t mean you’ll pass it for a 10 minute Youtube video.
  3. Build authentic, long-term relationships.
    Ever heard of a one-hit-wonder musician? Or that guy who went viral just once? Just because people paid attention once, doesn’t mean they’ll do it again. Build a body of work, stay authentic, and don’t use gimmicks to break the trust of your audience. Think: Be a friend, not a salesman.
  4. Better content is a form of marketing.
    Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forces for driving new audiences and growth. If you offer something genuinely worth paying attention to, the market markets to new markets (sorry, I had to). Have you ever asked for a movie recommendation, and blindly followed a suggestion through to completion? That’s word of mouth for you.

There’s no doubt that our attention has been fragmented through all the battles our mind faces every day, but what’s really taken a hit is our consideration spans.

Only once we’ve understood the difference between attention and consideration can we truly begin to appreciate the asymmetric nature of these relationships and how to navigate them.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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