Robert F. Potter

"The Audio Prof"

My Research in Attention to Media


So, if you've found yourself on this page, you are at least remotely interested in finding out what makes listeners pay attention to audio or radio.
Of course, some of this has to do with the content. In other words, we pay attention to stuff that interests us.

But, what if you are an audio producer who thinks that listeners would be interested in. . . if you could only grab their attention!
Sounds like a Catch-22, doesn't it?

Well, my interest in using audio to capture attention began when I was a radio DJ at at Top 40 station in Spokane, WA (KZZU). I started there as a Sophomore in college, as a Promotions Assistant. That means I was the guy they'd send to all the wacky promotions and try to get listeners interested in coming out to see me. So, I'd take the station van and head out to the water slides, or the drag races, or the St. Patrick's Day parade and broadcast live~~telling people to "come on out and say hi!"

Sometimes, I'd have prizes like concert tickets or CDs to give away. Or, the deals to get into the waterslides or wherever so great that the thought was telling you about them would help capture your interest and have you come out to the location. Trouble was, it seemed to me that if you heard the information often enough (like through the multiple times an hour I'd give a report), you'd eventually tune me out.

So, I tried to come up with ways to capture your attention besides the deals. Like sounds of a reving drag racing engine, or the sound of me making a cell phone call while I was going DOWN the waterslides.

To make a long story short, I eventually decided to pursue a career in higher education. This brought me to where I was introduced to cognitive science. I began to realize that the theories of cognitive science, neuroscience, and psychology of attention could be used to help determine what makes us pay attention to radio messages.

I started by trying to show that structural features in radio messages could introduce enough novelty to cause an orienting response.

Turns out, they can! Here's a paper that explains what we did.