What a lovely picture. A young gorilla mum with her three-day-old baby son. All go “aaah”. But the chances are, before I even asked you, your brain had already gone “aaah”. Yes, she is a gorilla and yes, she’d attack you if you went anywhere near her little one. But it is a picture of contentment and happiness. Yet, even if the image was of a roaring lion, or a teeth-baring shark, your brain would still have gone “aaah”. New research shows that the emotional centre of our brain goes into hyperdrive when we see an animal – ANY animal.
The study from the California Institute of Technology shows that whenever we see a picture of an animal, part of our brain known as the “amygdala” which is linked to emotion, fires like crazy. The neuroscientists believe it is an evolutionary throw-back to the days when animals meant either food or a threat to us. Our brains become super-focused on animals as they were intimately involved in our survival.
The interesting part of the research is that our brains do not go into such a frenzy of neurological activity when we are shown pictures of humans. Give our brains a person to look at and it seems we are far less psychologically engaged than when we have a picture of an animal.
There is much advice – all of it sensible and true – that as people we prefer to look at pictures of other people than pictures of things. Show someone a picture of an iPad and they’ll say it is interesting. Show them a picture of someone using an iPad and they are much more engaged. But perhaps there would be even more engagement if we showed a picture of a gorilla with an iPad…!
The images you use on your website are an essential component in engagement. This new research suggests that if you have pictures of animals on your website you heighten neurological activity in the emotional centres of the brain, thereby helping to increase engagement.
So, what animal pictures can you include on your website, without making it look naff and tacky? Do that and you may well find people linger longer on your pages.
- Human brain hardwired to tune into animals – msnbc.com (msnbc.msn.com)
- Human Brains are Primally Wired to Notice Animals (wired.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+