Friday, October 06, 2006

Ideas Sticking

There's a interesting-looking book coming out in a few months by two brothers named Chip and Dan Heath called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Their blog is coming soon, and when it is up, it'll get sidebar consideration. Here's a paper that Chip (who is a professor at Stanford University) and two of his colleagues wrote several years ago for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, titled Emotional Selection in Memes: The Case of Urban Legends.

His abstract: We explore how much memes like urban legends succeed based on informational selection (i.e., truth or a moral lesson) and emotional selection (i.e., the ability to evoke emotions like anger, fear, or disgust). We focus on disgust because it is the least intuitive form of emotional selection and its elicitors have been precisely described. In Study 1, controlling for informational factors like truth, people were more willing to pass along stories that elicited stronger disgust. Study 2 randomly sampled legends and created versions that varied in disgust; people preferred to pass along versions that produced the highest level of disgust. In Study 3, we coded legends for individual story motifs that produce disgust (e.g., ingestion of a contaminated substance); legends that contained more disgust motifs were distributed more widely on urban legend web sites. We discuss implications of emotional selection for the social marketplace of ideas.

Also, here's something Prof. Heath and yet another colleague wrote discrediting the Mozart Effect.


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