Viral content let’s see what we have. More than 4 billion messages are shared daily on Facebook, 500 million tweets and 200 billion emails. In all this formidable flow of information, some issues are universal winners: viral issues and news, those that are massively shared. A team of researchers has tried to deepen the knowledge about the virality of the news by scrutinizing the brains of a few humans. The result of their work is that virality does not depend so much on the content of the news but on ourselves: the image we want to sell to others and how it will help strengthen our links with others.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted two experiments with 80 subjects who reported news from The New York Times, one of the most relevant and most widely circulated journals on social networks. In particular, they were taught health news of the New York newspaper, chosen among the most shared, according to the records of the newspaper itself. They let them read the headline and a summary of the news and asked if they would like to read it whole or share it publicly or privately with their Facebook friends.
The researchers observed that during the experiment the brain regions corresponding to two well-located mental processes were activated. On the one hand, the thought about oneself, that there could be understood as the image that to share that news could give on the own subject. Through this neural mechanism, expectations of positive self-result by sharing [the news] increase the perceived value of information exchange, which in turn increases the likelihood of sharing,” they add.
On the other hand, in these experiments, they observed that the region in which the brain works to understand what the others are thinking was also put into operation. As they explain in the study, whoever tries to share a news story must consider what is in the minds of others, their knowledge, opinions, and interests, to predict the possible reactions of their audience. “This type of social cognition involves predictions about the mental states of others, for example, predicting what others can think and feel about shared information and who shares it,” they say. Thus, by posting something on our wall we expose ourselves to the judgment of others by making a bet and a prophecy: this will please and help us to improve our common ties and what they think about us.
In addition, the result of the experiment was that the news that most activated these regions of the brain coincided with the information that achieved the greatest impact on social networks. In the case of viral news, several phenomena that were previously known would work at the same time, as one of the most satisfying things is to share information about ourselves, both in social networks and in conventional interactions. We also knew that the most persuasive people, those who get their message better, are those who have more developed that ability to put themselves in the place of others, to venture what is in their mind.