Our Minds are Shrinking

New research by two neuroscientists has found that people who use multiple devices simultaneously have lower gray matter density in an area of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional control.

Which begs the question:

How many gadgets do you juggle simultaneously?

Assuming you're like most people, you're on your laptop/tablet, smartphone and other media devices checking email, texts and social media at the same time. And so are your prospects. Their mind (and your mind) is multitasking a lot. But here's scary news: You could be shrinking important structures in your brain. So are your prospective customers. And this is going to impact your selling success whether you like it or not.

Intuition tells us that it's tough to media multitask, that is, attempt to watch TV and be on your computer and/or your smartphone checking email, texts and social media all at the same time. If you've done it, you know you're not completely present with any one of these. Rather, your focus diverts from one media to the other with the end result of losing out on the whole story of any one thing.

With these new findings, there is increasing concern about how simultaneous multiple media consumption is altering our cognition, social-emotional well-being, and brain structure.

Media multitasking is also associated with emotional problems, like anxiety and depression, as well as cognitive problems, like poor attention. Gray matter is also central to muscle control, sensory input, decision making and self-control.

And there's more: we're losing gray matter which affects "executive function" in the brain. "Executive functions" include judgment, analysis, organizing, problem solving, planning and creativity. With those "executive functions," the mind can more deeply groove new memories into long-term knowledge.

So while there is reason for you, on an individual level, to be concerned about this development, as a direct marketer, you have additional challenges selling your prospective customers.

Since there is little you can do to change the course of how your prospects will media multitask, you have to take steps to adjust your marketing approach. Here are a few ideas:

  • Command Undivided Attention. If you want your prospective customer's undivided attention, one way to get it is through activating fear in the brain's amygdala—the emotional hot button-that reacts in flight or fight mode.
  • Encourage Thinking. Once you have undivided attention, take quick advantage of it by encouraging your prospect to pause and think.
  • Be the Problem Solver. Your prospect wants easy and quick solutions, especially in this media multitasking world. Become their virtual problem solver.
  • Organize Yourself First So You Can Organize Them. When attention is split apart, you must do the heavy lifting of organizing your message and quickly delivering it with clarity. Confusion kills interest.
  • Relieve Anxiety. Since loss of gray matter creates anxiety, be the salvation in your prospect's life to relieve it. Be credible. Solve problems. Be your prospect's hero.

Let's face it: there is nothing you can do to prevent your prospective customers from media multitasking. And you can't save them from the risk of losing all-important brain gray matter. But you can be smarter and better positioned to sell with an awareness of how to present your messaging in a complex multimedia and multitasking world.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.