The science behind why video grabs your attention
Have you ever fallen into a YouTube pit? It starts by watching the trailer for a new film you want to see but, before you know it, it’s an hour later and you’re watching a video on how to make your own lampshade from nothing but some string, a balloon and PVA glue.
If you’ve ever found yourself aimlessly binge-watching videos online, you’re not alone.
Video has a way of pulling you in more than any other medium and it’s no wonder when the brain is designed to actively seek out movement wherever you see it.
Here’s the science behind why video grabs your attention – and holds it:
Video fascinates the brain
In one study, focussing on flash animation, researchers confirmed that the eyes fix on animated content and participants were able to quickly locate the flashing target item even in tightly packed screen displays.
Considering your brain’s bias towards motion is a honed survival technique, a threat evaluation rooted in your flight or fight response, it’s no surprise the eye naturally gravitates towards video.
It’s the human fascination with motion that has, in part, led to the rising popularity of #oddlysatisfying videos. Viewers say that these videos of soap-cutting, industrial machinery and kinetic sand are calming and gratifying. It’s these timed sequences of precise movement, symmetry, rhythm and the simulation of satisfying physical sensation that viewers enjoy and watch over 2 million times.
Credit to The Best Satisfying.
Dr. Jessica Gall Myrick, a professor at Indiana University Media School, researched the effect cat videos have on the brain and concluded that oddly satisfying videos have a similar rewarding effect by alleviating anxiety and ‘diverting the brain’s attention until the individual would feel calm and comforted.’
While research into this phenomenon is sparse, it’s clear that these videos bring people comfort because they’re relaxing, aesthetically pleasing and satisfying in their simplicity.
These are just a few of the reasons why perfectly-paced ads like Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like with its precise, slick transitions in quick succession hold our attention and attract over 56 million views.
Credit to Old Spice.
The brain filters out content that isn’t engaging – but video breaks through
Content has always been and remains king. But on social media, consumers are overwhelmed with a continuous stream of content. In a sea of tweets, status updates, and Insta Stories, it’s more difficult than ever to cut through the noise.
To avoid overheating, the brain actually saves energy by choosing what is worth looking at. In other words, when your prospective customer scrolls through their newsfeed, their brain is being selective by cherry-picking the content that looks engaging and ignoring everything else.
This means that video content with dynamic visuals, movement, colour, sound and a compelling story has a much better chance of grabbing your prospect’s attention. An image or text alone, on the other hand, may slip through the cracks of infinite scroll.
Video is immersive and evokes an emotional response
In one study, researchers examined the use of virtual reality in exposure therapy to determine if participants exposed to still images and videos of their phobia (e.g. spiders) would acclimatise and begin to overcome their fear.
The study found that computer-generated videos aroused a greater physiological response (participants blinked more often and produced more sweat) compared to their response to still images. The results demonstrate the importance of video in eliciting, not just fear, but any strong emotional response.
Mirror neurons play a key role in evoking this kind of emotional response, too. Have you ever noticed yourself frowning when someone on TV is angry? Or smiling when someone in a movie is happy? Known as the cornerstone of human empathy, the mirror neurons, like the emotional equivalent of the contagious yawn, cause you to mirror the emotions you see around you. This hammers home the emotional, human impact of video that grabs your attention.
Compared to other media, video content has a profound ability to immerse you in stories that encourage you to slot yourself into someone else’s shoes.
Video helps you learn, remember and recall
A study into educational videos found that, since video content is consumed through the visual, auditory and verbal processing channels of the brain, learners are able to make more relevant associations that help them store and recall what they’ve learned.
Video content actively engages with more of the senses and more parts of the brain. Whether the aim of your video is to educate (with explainer content) or entertain (with funny office-based content), viewers will be more likely to remember the information than they would in a static post.
By arousing the use of multiple senses, evoking empathy, tapping into our survival instincts and even alleviating anxiety, compelling video has a greater power to hold your attention in an ever-expanding world of content. It actively encourages you to become invested in the narrative, visuals and sounds you consume.
So, no matter how hard you may try to filter it out, the eye will always drift towards video.