Communication

Raise that pulse, share that link

July 22, 2011 739

Tom Jacobs reports in Miller McCune Magazine on a recent study which finds anxiety, amusement, and even exercise, can compel people to share information.

Do me a favor. Before reading this article, would you mind jogging around the block?

Not a practical suggestion at this particular moment? No problem. It’s just that, had you taken a minute or so to get your heart rate up, you’d be more likely to forward this article to a friend, or mention it to a colleague at the water cooler.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Berger has been doing some fascinating research on precisely what inspires people to share information. Last year, he and a colleague looked at which New York Times articles are most emailed; they found stories that inspired either awe or anxiety led the list.

His latest paper, published in the journal Psychological Science, gets at a core principle that underlies these previous findings. It provides evidence that people are more prone to sharing interesting content if they are experiencing either physical or emotional arousal.

This stimulation needn’t be caused by the absorbing article, sad song or snarky sketch you choose to share. It’s enough that they occur in rapid succession. Your ex-spouse has nothing to do with this article, but if he or she unexpectedly walked by your desk a few seconds ago, you’d be more likely to pass along this information.

Berger describes two studies that provide evidence of this phenomenon. In the first, 93 students watched one of a series of film clips that, according to previous research, evoke specific emotions in viewers.

Some saw scenes designed to arouse big emotions (amusement or anxiety), while others viewed episodes that were meant to arouse less-intense feelings (contentment or sadness). Still others saw emotionally neutral clips. All then measured their level of stimulation on three scales: passive to active, mellow to fired up and low energy to high energy.

Then, in what they were told was a separate experiment, the students were shown an article and a video, both of which were pre-tested to be emotionally neutral. They then rated how willing they would be to share each of them with family, friends and coworkers.

“Compared with participants induced to feel contentment or sadness (low arousal), participants induced to feel amusement or anxiety (high arousal) were more willing to share content with other people,” Berger writes…

Click here to read the entire article.

One of Library Journal’s Best Magazines of 2008, Miller-McCune not only identifies policy issues of global important but provides evidence-based solutions offered by academic research and real-world models. Through excellent but understandable writing and proven judgment in what to cover, the nonprofit Miller-McCune has received a surprising amount of acclaim and, more importantly, a large and growing audience interested in the social and natural sciences.

View all posts by Pacific-Standard Magazine

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