Emotion Drives Action

by Aaron Rockett on December 16, 2013

Emotions and feelings play an important role in guiding a person’s decision-making behavior. “The most basic form of feeling is affect, the sense (not necessarily conscious) that something is good or bad,” writes Slovic (2007). These affective responses occur “rapidly and automatically” (Slovic, 2007). We quickly associate feelings with words like “treasure” or the word “hate,” or in the case of video, how the images make us feel (Slovic, 2007).  The importance of affect in conveying meaning upon information and motivating behavior is well documented in psychology literature (Slovic, 2007). Plainly stated, “without affect, information lacks meaning” (Slovic, 2007).

The central role of affect is characterized in the System 1 and System 2 model, which compares the dual-process theories of thinking (Slovic, 2007). System 1 deals with affect and experiential processing, or emotion, while System 2 looks at analytic processing, or judgment. While analysis is important in the decision-making process, it is easier to rely on affect and emotion because it is often quicker, easier, and more efficient to navigate a complex and dangerous world (Slovic, 2007). Affect has a direct and primary role in motivating behavior (Slovic, 2007). In relation to viral video, affect could be that emotion that drives you to forward the video to family, friends, and colleagues (Dobele et al., 2007).

Not only is emotion a chief driver in the forwarding of a video, but Slovic’s analysis points out that how imagery is presented is crucial to how emotions are stimulated, which has large implications for producing videos. “Underlying the role of affect in the experiential system is the importance of images, to which positive or negative feelings become attached,” states Slovic (2007). “Imagery” plus “Attention” lead to “Feeling,” which invokes “action” (Slovic, 2007). Images are the key to conveying affect and meaning, and some imagery is more powerful than others (Slovic, 2007).

Slovic’s (2007) theory of One versus Many discusses the powerful impact of imagery of just one individual versus imagery of many people. Research shows that attention is greater for images of individuals and loses focus and intensity when targeted at groups of people (Hamilton and Sherman, 1996; Susskind, Maurer, Thakker, Hamilton, and Sherman, 1999). Emotional responses are most powerful and effective when the image is of just one human face rather than many, which has a more numbing or tuning out effect (Slovic, 2007). Slovic’s research plays an important role when considering the data that Web videos have just 10 seconds to capture the attention of a viewer.

Producing videos containing celebrities, emotional elements such as surprise, and evocative music are all steps to creating effective video content for an online audience. However, reaching online communities, blogs and other online portals to generate buzz and spur forwarding behavior is an entirely separate area of research and understanding for the “viral video” phenomenon. The latest research on the viral spread of media shows that it is an important key and evolving rapidly.

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