People often share stories, news, and information with the people around them. Now, a new study has found that why is certain content shared more than others and what drives people to share.
According to Jonah Berger, the sharing of stories or information may be driven in part by arousal. When people are physiologically aroused, whether due to emotional stimuli or otherwise, the autonomic nervous is activated, which then boosts social transmission. Simply put, evoking certain emotions can help increase the chance a message is shared.
"In a prior paper, we found that emotion plays a big role in which New York Times articles make the most emailed list. But interestingly, we found that while articles evoking more positive emotions were generally more viral, some negative emotions like anxiety and anger actually increased transmission while others like sadness decreased it. In trying to understand why, it seemed like arousal might be a key factor," said Berger, the Joseph G. Campbell Jr. Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the study, Berger suggested that feeling fearful, angry, or amused drives people to share news and information. These types of emotions are characterized by high arousal and action, as opposed to emotions like sadness or contentment, which are characterized by low arousal or inaction.
"If something makes you angry as opposed to sad, for example, you’re more likely to share it with your family and friends because you’re fired up," added Berger.
The study has been published in Psychological Science.