MELBOURNE, Australia, March 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr Brent Coker who claimed in 2011 he could predict if a YouTube movie would go viral using a mathematical formula (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-theory-explains-what/), now claims that viral videos activate primitive parts of the brain usually tasked with ensuring survival. And that this is the key to understanding why 'supervirals' (over 1 million shares) exist.
"What we find is that when people watch a YouTube movie that's gone viral, parts of the brain usually associated with survival functions such as eating, sleeping, and procreation are activated. What's remarkable is that we don't usually associate watching viral videos with survival. Over the past few years we've been gathering evidence to figure out why," says Coker.
According to Coker, there are four basic elements underlying the success of something going viral: self-intensification, affinity, emotion-shift, and 'frisson.'
"Frisson is the interesting one. It's the same biological response people have when faced with a predator. Instinctively the body prepares to fight or flight (run away) in order to survive, releasing adrenaline and numbing endorphins to deal with pain -a natural opiate like heroin."
"We observe the same primitive facial expression when faced with a deadly predator: jaw drops to let in more oxygen, eyes open wide for faster reactions, and the face pales as blood is transported to the muscles."
Watching viral movies is obviously not necessary for survival. One possibility is that the attraction to certain types of information, as found in viral movies, is learned. In ancient times, some information like which berries to not eat was necessary for survival. This information was usually passed through the generations as stories.
"Another possibility is that viral movies are associated with reward, similar to reproductive urges. Our colleagues found that the brain's reward system and reproduction mechanisms were activated when birds heard perfect birdsong, but not imperfect birdsong. Obviously reproduction is necessary for survival of our species, so their theory seems to fit," says Coker.
In his book 'Going Viral', Coker describes ways to replicate the so-called survival effect (http://amzn.com/1292087927)
"Shifting people rapidly across opposing emotions is one way. Another way is to activate certain memories. There are other ways, but what's important is the interaction of certain conditions. It's like a recipe: the trick is figuring out which elements to include, and in what amounts."
Other parts of Coker's 'recipe' include: 'self-intensification' - an instinctual tendency to protect for people to protect their self-esteem; 'affinity' -a quality of feeling usually found in human relationships; and 'emotion-shift' -an interaction of opposing valence emotions. According to Coker, the right amounts of these are the key to viral success.
"Science has come a long way towards understanding what makes things go viral. It's the Holy Grail for marketers especially. Our research has taken it a step further by identifying the 'How' –how do you recreate and combine these four elements to maximise the spread."
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SOURCE Brent Coker