8 Seconds to Influence Decisions and Behaviors

Quick! What do these things have in common?

• Home purchase decision (1)
• Vicks thermometer reading (2)
• Men falling in love (3)
• McLaren 720S 0-124 mph (4)
• Tim Tebow causing trouble (5)
• Stefan Kraft’s ski jump (6)
• Christian Benteke’s international soccer goal (7)
• Bull riding contest (8)

Before I fill you in on their relationship, did you know that according to a 2015 study (9) published by the Microsoft consumer insights team, the average human attention span is eight seconds, which is one second less than that of a goldfish? Do I still have your attention? If so, you might be surprised to learn that each of the aforementioned events takes eight seconds to complete. Home buyers and men make weighty lifestyle decisions, drivers reach high speeds, people complete wellness assessments and athletes make headlines and set world records in the same amount of time it takes to win a bull riding contest.

How does rapid engagement, or this “eight-second effect,” impact brand campaigns? Given an eight-second human attention span, published brand stimuli must inspire consumer engagement and messages must be succinct and compelling enough to encourage desired behaviors from a given target market. Regardless of media type or marketing channel, if a campaign does not motivate a consumer within eight seconds, it may not prompt a desired behavior.

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Speaking of prompting desired behaviors, the eight-second effect significantly impacts how clients react to report deliverables. Since the manner in which information is synthesized and presented to clients must be credible, memorable and actionable, well-produced and differentiated reports must be engaging and aesthetically pleasing. Presenting content with bullets, icons and tables distinguishes presentations by offering visual cues to highlight important data and by providing clients with a fast and easy way to process information. Brief and logical executive summaries accompanied by visual stories – as opposed to text-heavy, wordy findings – further enable teams to align and to take appropriate action based on project results.

What are potential implications for tentativeness or lack of engagement within eight seconds? Consider the eight-second basketball rule (10), which states that the team with possession on its court side must cross the half-court line within eight seconds or it loses possession of the ball. How about the eight-second rule to download a Web page (11) that states that people who are not engaged on a website within eight seconds will navigate away from the site?

Did you know that eight seconds is the average time it takes a person to answer a phone (12)? For an individual or team leading a call, the first eight seconds of conversation are critical to the success of the call. If the opening is not meaningful, sincere and engaging, a caller risks losing the audience and faces an uphill battle trying to sell a value proposition. The same preparedness applies to the remainder of the conversation. Once rapport and trust are established, objectives must be articulated and followed by a call to action such as a summary and confirmation of next steps. Similar to the eight-second basketball rule, an individual or team seeking to maintain possession – or in this situation, command of a call – should know the audience, have a purpose and follow a well-structured plan.

How would this scenario play out in a face-to-face encounter? When one is introduced to someone new, the first eight seconds are critical to making a positive first impression (13). If you don’t engage and use those seconds well, it can be a long and arduous process to rebound from that misguided first impression.

Eight seconds is a game changer for individuals or brands that effectively engage consumers and motivate desired behaviors. Speaking of games, did you know that one of the greatest team comebacks in NBA playoff history occurred in eight seconds? In 1995, when the Indiana Pacers trailed the New York Knicks by six points with less than a minute left in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals (14), Indiana’s Reggie Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds and led his team to victory. His performance earned him international fame and branded him as a basketball legend, thus illustrating how outcomes, brand connections and consumers – or in this case, fan behavior – can be influenced within a remarkably limited period of time.

Have eight seconds to spare? What’s your most memorable eight-second event, or how has the eight-second effect influenced you or your brand?


  1. http://activerain.com/blogsview/3237494/buyers-decide-within-8-seconds-whether-they-are-interested-in-a-home
  2. https://www.vickshumidifiers.com/shop/thermometers/vicks-speedread-digital-thermometer-fever-insight
  3. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/03/25/study-it-takes-just-82-seconds-for-men-to-fall-in-love.html
  4. https://www.yahoo.com/news/mclaren-720s-0-124-mph-152752032.html
  5. http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/it-takes-just-8-seconds-for-tim-tebow-to-cause-trouble-022714
  6. https://snowbrains.com/video-world-record-ski-jump-8-seconds-airborne-831-69-ft-distance/
  7. http://www.espnfc.com/belgium/story/2969713/belgiums-christian-benteke-sets-world-cup-goal-record-in-7-seconds
  8. http://www.pbr.com/en/education/riding_basics.aspx
  9. https://advertising.microsoft.com/en/WWDocs/User/display/cl/researchreport/31966/en/microsoft-attention-spans-research-report.pdf
  10. http://www.nba.com/analysis/rules_10.html
  11. http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/37197/
  12. http://wzid.com/nh-in-the-am/it-takes-the-average-person-8-seconds-to-do-this/
  13. https://www.six-degrees.com/the-psychology-of-first-impressions/
  14. http://www.nba.com/pacers/8-9-seconds-created-legend-and-changed-lives

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Six Degrees
Six Degrees uses psycho-sensory tools and techniques to build more successful national and global brands. Brands are rooted in human perception. And our psycho-sensory approach is designed to identify deeper and richer insights from human perception and then develop brand communications that change suboptimal perceptions or reinforce the right perceptions. More than 80 percent of the information humans process is nonverbal, making it essential that brands manage the sensory signals they send out. Our people are passionate branding experts wielding powerful psycho-sensory tools to build stronger and more successful brands across the globe.

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