BerandaComputers and TechnologyThe Troxler effect, another example of how our minds filter reality

The Troxler effect, another example of how our minds filter reality

There’s an Ocean of difference between objective reality and human perception.

Because our minds routinely filter reality.

Let me show you what I mean.

Stare at the X for 10 seconds. Then watch the colors magically disappear.

You just experienced the Troxler Effect.

In 1804 a physician called Ignaz Troxler made a surprising discovery.

When you stare at an object for a long period of time, the details in your peripheral vision begin to fade. And if those details are blurry or low-contrast (like the image I just showed you), they disappear eeeeeeeeven faster.

This happens because of neural adaptation. When our eyes are staring at something and nothing changes, our brains filter out all the noise. So you can focus on the target.

Fact is, our senses connect us to our surroundings.

Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. They’re all tools your brain uses to help you understand your World and filter out what’s “useless”.

This is all subconscious stuff. So you only notice things that your brain labels as worthy of your attention.


  • Anything that looks dangerous.

  • Anything unexpected.

  • Anything that is essential for your survival. Like eating, sex (for reproduction purposes), fighting or running away from danger.

Every thing else is ignored.

If you run a business, email marketing probably plays an important role in your promotional mix.

If you’re the person who writes the emails, let me ask you a question. Do you spend more time writing the message? Or the subject line?

In email copywriting, getting attention is the job of the subject line.

If your subject line is boring, or hard to read, or just sounds like spam… your readers will just filter it out as noise. Just like the Troxler Effect image made the colors disappear in front of your eyes.

Takeaways for your business:

1. Put the good stuff right there in the subject line. Make it hint to the reader that here is something they want or need. Because if the reader doesn’t open your email, it’s game over. All that time you spent writing your email was worthless.

Here’s a good example from Bushra Azhar. She’s the Master Persuader behind The Persuasion Revolution. So when Bushra writes an email about the one thing that doubled her business, I bet her open rates are pretty damn high.

2. Never try to be clever or write email subject lines that merely try to trigger curiosity. If you use words that trigger curiosity, combine them with news or self-interest.

Here’s an email I got a couple of weeks ago from a record label I follow: RVNG Intl.

They’re promoting a new album by Dylan Moon. Dylan’s album is called Oh No Oh No Oh No.

I get what RVNG Intl is trying to do here, but this email subject line doesn’t work because it’s too vague. They’re trying to sound clever and trigger curiosity, but the subject line tells the reader NOTHING about what to expect if they open the email.

Here’s an alternative subject line that would work mucho much better:

Oh No Oh No Oh No, Dylan Moon just dropped a new indie pop LP

Because it triggers curiosity (“Oh No Oh No Oh No”combining it with news (“Dylan Moon just dropped a new LP” and appeals to the reader’s self-interest ( “indie pop” tells me what kind of music I can expect).

3. If you’re trying to beat writer’s block, consider using headline formulas. The principles to write email subject lines are exactly the same. Revisit one of my classic posts. Scroll down to the “One last thing…” section and read my 25 Proven Formulas For Writing Magnetic Headlines (inspired by ad legend John Caples).

4. Another alternative way to write magnetic email subject lines is the same little technique I use to write unignorable headlines: handle objections right away.

Your pal,

Miguel Ferreira

Founder & Chief Copywriter, Teardwn + Nishi + Copy Ipsum

(Now accepting select copywriting projects. Work with me).

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