YouTube watching is instant decision

If you were to watch all the videos uploaded to the Internet today, back-to-back, it would take you – wait for it – around EIGHT YEARS…! Every minute of the day around 30 hours worth of video is uploaded to YouTube alone – which has around 60% of the online video market. There is a massive amount of video watching going on. But many videos uploaded to the likes of YouTube get only one or two views – from the originator and their Mum. Others, however, get millions of views. So, why the difference?


The decision as to whether or not to watch a video is instant. You make the choice within fractions of a second of landing on the video page. If the still image of the video captures your attention, you watch the video. If you don’t like the thumbnail, you click away. Video producers have less than a second these days in which to capture their viewers. That’s a tough ask..!

The reason we make up our mind so quickly is down to something called “Cognitive Valence Theory“. Essentially, this is the system by which your brain makes up its mind about things it likes and things it does not like. It is a subconscious process and takes milliseconds. When you see a still image of a YouTube clip, your brain goes “yes” or “no” in a trice. You either click, or don’t depending on what your subconscious brain decides.

So, selecting the right still image is fundamental to the success of your YouTube videos. If you are not getting the number of clicks you would like, it may well be that people are simply rebelling against the still image which promotes your video. Neurological research in the USA has discovered a technique using Valence Theory by which it is possible to predict which image in a video should be used as a still thumbnail.


The technology is clearly in its early stages, but it should make you think: are you choosing the right images for your YouTube videos? You might not have sophisticated technology and neuroscientists to help you select the right thumbnail image for your video. However, don’t just accept what YouTube defaults to – choose the thumbnail with care so that your potential viewers can make that instant decision that this is a video they want to watch.

YouTube watching is instant decision 1

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