Vitality

Human Brain Process Explains Why Some Articles Go Viral And Others Don’t, Studies Say

Unless you’re a news junkie, you probably get a lot of your information from stories that have gone viral. Have you ever wondered why those articles were shared, but other stories weren't? It may have to do with your brain process, according to two new research papers by Ph.D students at the University of Pennsylvania.

In their first paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the authors analyzed 80 participants' brain responses while they read health-related New York Times headlines and news abstracts. Specific patterns of brain activity were measured through a neuroimaging procedure known as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or more commonly referred to as an fMRI.

Read: We Go On Facebook At Work Because Our Brains Are Predisposed To Be Social When They Need A Break​

The subjects rated how likely they were to read and share the articles.

“People are interested in reading or sharing content that connects to their own experiences, or to the sense of who they are or who they want to be,” senior author Emily Falk said in a press release. “They share things that might improve their relationships, make them look smart or empathic or cast them in a positive light.”

laptop cellphone coffee New research uses brain imaging to predict which health-related articles will go viral. Photo courtesy of Pexels, a public domain

But, their research shows that there’s more to viral content than self-related thoughts. When choosing articles to read or share, the participants also considered other people — would they like it, too?

Their second study, scheduled to be published next week in PNAS, showed how the same brain signals can accurately predict the virality of the content among actual New York Times readers across the globe.

The authors note that despite the participants in their study having a widely different demographic than overall New York Times readership, this did not make a difference. The brain activity they tracked was equally simulated by those who read the article globally.

“The fact that the articles strike the same chord in different brains suggests that similar motivations and similar norms may be driving these behaviors,” lead author Christin Scholz said in a press release. “Similar things have value in our broader society.”

 

See also: Feeling Depressed? Too Much Time On Social Media Can Affect Your Mental Health

Top 11 Social Networks Linked To Higher Risk Of Depression And Anxiety: Is Social Media Bad For Your Health?​

 

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