Content for the new-age brain

Does a night in front of the TV, scanning the news on your laptop and live chatting to friends and family on your smartphone sounds familiar? You might even have a crossword or sudoku on the go at the same time. If you said yes, then you probably have a new-age brain.

The human body is always adapting and evolving, but our media-saturated, digitally led lives is driving rapid physiological change to our brains.

Phil Dye ‘the Brain Guy’ has spent a lifetime working in the communications sector and the last 10 years deep diving into the remarkable world of neuroscience.

As one of the leading authorities in Australia on the relationship between cognitive function and communication, IMPACT picked Phil’s brain on how to create content for a new-world audience.

Q: How has digital living impacted the human brain?

Up until the 1980s, most humans had what we refer to as a ‘modular’ brain. Hallmarks for this type of brain structure include deep concentration and considered decision making.

While mental processing is generally slow for those with a modular brain, the upshot is that they rarely make mistakes.

We now live and work connected to our small screens in high distraction environments. Our use and reliance on technology has caused a fundamental change to the way we interpret and use information.

Our brains are now fast-paced, adaptive and multi-modular.

Q: Are multi-modular brains better?

Multi-modular brains can rapidly absorb information from multiple sources, but speed comes at a cost.

The average attention span is now just eight minutes! While some believe our ‘second-screen’ habit is making us better at multi-tasking, it simply isn’t true. Multi-modular brains are better equipped to manage interruptions, but more inclined to make mistakes.

The silver lining is that due to these quick-fire brains finishing tasks quickly, they have enough time afterwards to find and address errors. Of course, this depends on the desire to do so.

Q: What else has changed?

Unfortunately, literacy in Australia is declining, and the nation has dropped below OECD levels. The average reading level is now the equivalent of a year 11 student.

Following the pandemic, data fatigue is also rife. Numbers simply aren’t cutting through to readers in the way they used to.

Q: What are the new content essentials to connect with multi-modular brains?

The first essential is to know your audience and ensure that your content matches your readership’s education level. Simple inclusive word choices are key.

The second is to keep your content short. Where an 800-word article was once considered a suitable length, today’s readers will barely hang around for 600. Long sentences are out (25 words is an ideal sentence length) and no more than five lines per paragraph.

The final tip is to dial down data and statistics and use words or graphics instead. If we think about the #blacklivesmatter movement it was driven by images and content shared through social media, not stats.

Words still have immense power. We just need to use less of them.

Want to know more about how to connect and communicate to our evolving brains? Contact the IMPACT team here.

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