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How the Troxler Effect Ruins Your Marketing Efforts

How the Troxler Effect Ruins Your Marketing Efforts

Can too much advertising actually ruin your marketing? Neuroscience has the surprising answer.

Too Much Advertising is Like Staring at a Red Dot

How much do you depend on repetition in your advertising?

For decades, marketing experts have told us that we need to make as many impressions as possible as frequently as we can afford. The idea is simple:

The more someone sees you or hears about you, the more likely they are to remember you.

Simple – and wrong. Dead wrong.

The reality is as harsh as it is counter-intuitive:

The more you are exposed to anything, the less likely you are to notice it.

That’s not opinion. That’s science.

It a phenomena called neural adaptation. And it is your brain’s way of protecting you from information overload.

Here’s what really happens inside your brain.

Your Brain Hides Stuff From You

We humans have five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste & smell. Those five “input channels” dump huge amounts of data into your brain all the time. Way too much for you to comprehend.

not a chair

This is Not a Chair

So your brain helps you.

Your brain checks all that data coming in and filters out the “useless” stuff. This process happens all the time, even though you aren’t aware of it. It is sub-conscious. You only notice the things your brain flags as “useful.”

So what kinds of input does your brain flag “useful”?

  • Anything unexpected gets noticed
  • Anything threatening gets noticed
  • Anything that furthers your goal of survival and reproduction gets noticed

Pretty well everything else gets filtered out. It never makes an impression on your consciousness.

The Troxler Effect in Action

You can demonstrate this to yourself, right here, right now, without moving from your chair.

The Troxler Effect

Troxler Effect

Stare at the red dot in the center of this image. In a few seconds, the dark circle around the dot will slowly fade away.  The only way to see the dark circle is to move your focus to something else.

When you stare at the red dot, your brain perceives that the peripheral information – the darker circle around the dot – is not changing. So it quits paying attention to it.

This optical illusion is called the Troxler Effect

The Troxler Effect demonstrates neural adaptation at work.  When your brain perceives that “nothing is changing”, it simply filters out that information.


(The reason the red dot doesn’t fade has to do with the shape of your eye and some small movements you don’t perceive. You can read the details in a 2004 paper by Hubel, Martinez& Macknik published in the journal Nature.)

Your brain is interested in new data. Not the same data over and over and over again.

The Troxler Effect is just one example of the same principle. When your brain gets the same information too often and too soon, then your brain just filters it out.

Is the Troxler Effect Ruining Your Marketing?

When your prospect is exposed to the same ads over and over again, he or she experiences the Troxler Effect. Her brain evaluate the signal, recognizes “oh, this isn’t new,” and then considers it “not interesting.”

When that happens, her brain filters that particular combination of signals so that it never reaches her consciousness.

To put it bluntly:

Recency & Frequency can actually decrease market “awareness” of your offering.

The science doesn’t lie.

What are the scientifically sound ways to make an impact on your audience? Learn How to Craft an Irresistible Persona.

What are the scientifically sound ways to make an impact on your audience? Learn How to Craft an Irresistible Persona.