Why what we like and what we do are different and your marketing is a waste of money.

Immersion and what moves our brain into action with Paul Zak.

Angela Shurina
6 min readNov 29, 2022


People are surprisingly bad at knowing what we actually like.

We say a sense of humor is very important in the partner and then end up marrying the person who never tells us a single joke.

We say we love documentaries and yet there’s none in our Netflix history.

We say we love fish and yet there’s none to be found in our freezer.


We think we know what we like when somebody asks us, “Did you like it?”, but our actions tell a different story.

Dr. Paul Zak during our podcast conversation said that true liking is subconscious, it’s in our emotional brain, whereas asking about our likes is about the conscious, the thinking part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex.

I think that’s why so many of us have a hard time knowing in advance what job we’ll love doing, or what partner will make us happy, or what movie will make us cry.

Liking and thinking about what we like are often 2 very different things.

Dr. Paul Zak and his research in advertising, the movie industry, education world showed that very clearly — asking people about what they like is a very unreliable method to evaluate what actions people will take, whether it’s a buying decision, donating to a cause, going to the movies or choosing your perfect job role. (Side note, if you are an entrepreneur, don’t ask if they like your idea, offer it to them to buy and use — to find out the truth).

That’s why hiring a perfect candidate for a job, designing ads and content that sells, or creating a blockbuster hit movie are still very much a guessing game, resulting in a lot of money, time and energy wasted with poor ROI.

Paul’s company is on a mission to change that!

So, what’s the solution to this issue?

How can we create experiences, content, education that people are emotionally moved by to take action VS just saying they like it, never taking any action on it?

Paul’s work and experience, the technology they created at Get Immersion, described in his new book “Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and the Source of Happiness” give us a better understanding of the issue and practical strategies and tools on how to address it.

Neuromarketing with CTAs that work, designing education that transforms, experiences that change minds and make life meaningful.


The first thing that becomes very clear in Paul’s book and research — humans are fundamentally social creatures. Nothing like experiences and content that have social components that draw our attention. Nothing like social proof and social connection works better to change our minds and make us take action. Nothing beats this!

Paul spent many many years studying the most “social” molecule in our brain, oxytocin, trying to figure out why we humans do what we do. And how to help companies, brands, altruistic initiatives, passionate educators deliver more impactful, meaningful content that makes our world and lives better. With his company Paul developed wireless technology, an algorithm that anyone can use to measure people’s level of what Paul calls “immersion”, the degree of attention and emotional connection people have to a piece of content or an experience, an algorithm, that predicts with 85–95% accuracy what people will actually do after.

While measuring the activity of thousands of people’s brains and creating this technology Paul’s team also developed a no-tech formula that we all can use right now to create experiences and content that moves our audiences into action to produce change.


Staging, Immersion, Relevance, Target, and Action

STAGING is all about attention and psychological safety, grabbing people’s attention and making people feel like they belong. I like this phrase Paul used on our podcast to describe staging — “start it hot”, basically meaning start with the most interesting part, create a hook — without the audience’s attention — there’s no chance for transformation, influence, and action-taking.

To establish safety use the concept of “people like us do things like this”, social proof to help people feel a part of the tribe you are communicating with.

In general, remember, Paul cautions us, “When people are anxious, stressed, harried, distracted, or angry, they lack the neural resources to grasp information”.

The second phase, IMMERSION is all about creating an emotionally compelling story, characters we sympathize with, drama that captures our minds.

I like to shortcut this phase in my mind as “make me care” phase of the formula.

What do people, what do we all care about the most? People and stories. So let’s create one! Share your or someone else’s stories to draw people in, to create emotionally-charged state of mind!

RELEVANCE — this is about the importance of the message for me. What am I getting out of this? Why is it useful to me? Why should I care at this stage of my life, day about this?

The brain is incredibly lazy and it filters out anything that’s not relevant to your life. Sad but true — we only care about what matters to us first.

TARGET — is about who we are speaking with. It’s about the avatar who we’d like to move into action, people who are likely to care the most about the message and take the most impactful action. If relevance is about what it does for me then target is about being very specific about the person we are communicating with.

ACTION — our favorite CTAs or calls to action. The mistake that I’ve been doing (still relearning this habit) — putting a call to action at the end when the emotional peak of the experience is already gone. People are most likely to act (Paul’s research on people’s brains showed this) when we are at our emotional peak, when we are moved — that’s where it’s the best time and place to put our CTAs and ask people to take action. From now on, when designing my content I’ll figure out how to bring this peak closer to the end and then I’ll ask people to take action.

This formula can be used for marketing campaigns and ads, events, your talks, promos of all sorts, to create educational experiences that we remember and put into practice.


Speaking of education, I found it interesting, as an educator that there’s also a better formula to present and organize educational events to make sure that knowledge sinks in and creates results in people’s life and work.

20–20–20 rule for education that changes our minds.

General principle? Keep it short!

The brain is like a muscle, learning is like a workout. Keep it short to prevent fatigue and improve results.

  • 20 minutes to present
  • 20 minutes to put it into practice
  • 20 minutes to debrief

For online education, shorter might even be better, and taking breaks is essential. Learning is hard work and the brain’s resources are limited (energy, neurotransmitters etc). Just like you can’t keep your muscles flexed all the time, you can’t keep your brain highly engaged all the time. Immersion and impactful education are very resource-demanding. Breaks, change of activities help to restore some of those resources to consolidate knowledge better.

And of course, don’t forget about SIRTA formula while designing your educational presentations to immerse people and make them care to make learning last and trigger action.


In the book Paul talks about many more things, strategies and concepts — how to use the system that measures immersion to help people craft the job experience to produce more results while enjoying the work day so much more AKA high engagement + high results.

The system can be used to create experience that makes people’s lives happier and more meaningful — immersion, being present are highly correlated with people’s levels of well-being and happiness.

Immersion makes us feel socially and meaningfully connected and that improves healthy longevity and mental health.

Neuroscience as a service, that’s what Paul and his company are doing, translating the stories our brain tells us into practical applications that help us move each other into action, learn and work better and ultimately have a more meaningful, joyful life experience.


▶️Check out our immersive conversation with Paul Zak on Your Brain’s Coach podcast.

▶️Keep on reading “Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and the Source of Happiness” for many more insights on how to create an impact and change the world.

▶️Check out something cool we are doing this spring at the Brain Factor retreat in Bansko, Bulgaria — 4-day immersion into practices of high-performing brains of emerging leaders and mission-driven, daring, moonshooting entrepreneurs.

Thank you for reading! Brought to you by your brain’s coach — Angela Shurina, committed to sustainable productivity and human potential.

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