Triggers and emotion

We have talked this week about the ice bucket challenge, but you might not have heard that the ALS Association filed for trademarks on the phrases “ice bucket challenge” and “ALS ice bucket challenge” last week, according to the Washington Post.

Organizations protect phrases all the time, but this effort strikes some people as wrong, particularly given the grassroots nature of the challenge. It will be interesting to see whether the application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office becomes widely discussed and whether that will change public opinion of the cause and its flagship organization.

Today’s class material

Triggers are stimuli in the environment that bring things to top of mind. Good triggers are frequent and strong.

We could list emotions all day long. Happy, sad, nervous, nostalgic…. Berger’s research reminds us that emotions have a physiological effect on us. Physical activity and many emotions create physiological arousal. Arousal is the “fight” part of the fight-or-flight instinct. Our bodies become particularly alert and engaged so that we’re ready to jump into action.

Arousing content, whether positive or negative, is more likely to be shared than content that tends toward relaxation or stasis. This helps explain some of the conflicting results about the type of content most likely to show up in the most-emailed lists.

Berger isn’t the only one who has studied content recommendations. A 2001 study by Sundar & Nass gave participants in an experiment a set of stories to read. All participants read the same stories, but some were told that the stories were picked by news editors, some by the computer they were using, some by other users of the online news service, and some by the participants themselves. Which group of participants do you think liked the stories most and found them of high quality? We’ll discuss it in class.

Important take-aways from class today:

  • Defining triggers.
  • Recognizing that emotion is one of the most powerful drivers of viral content.
  • High-arousal vs. low-arousal content.

Freebie for student success

This is relevant to your success at learning in any environment, not just this class. A recent study shows that students who take notes by hand in class later can answer questions about the material better than students who take notes digitally. We’re talking test grades. The difference seems to be that people know they can’t write fast enough to take dictation when taking notes by hand, so they process what the teacher is saying and then write down key points. People can take verbatim notes when typing, but it’s not accompanied by the same type of processing. This may be one more reason on top of the distractions of the Internet to leave your laptop in your bag when studying conceptual material.


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