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Delayed Ending and Attention


Explanations > Perception > Attention > Delayed Ending and Attention

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Sustain attention by drawing out the ending of things. Make it seem as if things are about to end, but then add in small additions that keep the sequence going.

Do not let things complete so people feel satisfied and disengage their attention.


Musicians do this when a song seems to be about to end but that last few bars are drawn out.

A sales person notes that a customer is interested but still not committed, so they keep talking and adding new elements of interest until the customer reaches internal closure.

A presenter ends their main discussion before time, then climaxes with an illustrate and engaging personal story.


Talk, presentation, stories, music and general communication makes much use of tension to engage people. Completing the communication results in closure, where the tension is released and the person moves on. This can result in loss of attention. To sustain attention, then, the climax may apparently be approached. This leads to greater tension as the listener anticipates the pleasure of closure. Delaying the closing climax (and yes, it's the same in sex) can lead to greater excitement and attention.

A way that sales people use this is in the 'That's Not All' method, where attention is sustained and desire built at the same time by adding more desirable things even when the customer may think they are already getting a great deal. If successful, the customer will buy quickly and without challenge, perhaps amazed that they have got such a good bargain.

Delayed endings are used in simple writings and speech when adjectives, adverbs and phrases are added to draw out the ending, perhaps adding emphasis or excitement. This is shown in the third, and perhaps the most interesting and useful, statement in the 'example' section above.

This is related to the 'cliff-hanger ending' in a story, where the episode or chapter ends, but there is an outstanding tension that keeps the audience thinking about the story (via the Zeigarnik effect) until it picks up again and continues towards resolution.

So what?

When you wish to sustain attention, particularly when the other person has not reached closure on what you want to persuade them about, and when their attention may be waning, signal that you are reaching the end of your pitch. This may be shown by such as using summaries or changes in speech pattern. Then add more elements, always implying that closure is not far away.

See also

Tension principle, That's Not All (TNA)


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