Sharing Makes us Feel Good, a Monkey Brain Shows Us

Sharing Makes us Feel Good, a Monkey Brain Shows Us

10th January 2013

In the past few years Social Media has often been referred to as being a ‘new’ phenomenon, something we need to adapt to. And in a way that is true, but it wasn’t the ‘social’ part of Social Media we needed to adapt to, but the ‘Media’ part: the fact that everything is shared must faster.

The “Social” principles of Social Media have been there forever. I’ve mentioned Jesus in my presentations before (started with 12 followers) as example of how Word of Mouth has been used throughout history and there are more examples to be found of the ‘social’ principles, sharing, caring and showing what we like and looking at others.

The reason we’ve been seeing the ‘social behaviour’ we are showing on Social Media throughout history is simple: it is in our genes. We are social animals. We want (need) to connect, we want to have what others have and we want to get things from other people.

A new research performed by Duke researchers now shows that ‘giving’, or even better ‘sharing, is most probably something that ‘tickles our brain’. They tested it on monkeys…

The researchers looked at monkey brains and how they responded to getting juice (no, not link juice, actual juice) and giving juice away. The scientists found that a monkey brain lit up when consuming or giving away juice. A specific part of the brain was triggered when giving the juice away. This indicates the monkey gets ‘happy’ when sharing something.


Yes monkeys, they did the research on monkeys. Those are not humans so how can we say the human behaviour of the brain is the same? We can’t for sure, so we’ll have to be careful with things like this, but prior research suggests these monkeys have the same brain reactions humans have, so we can at least assume the reaction is the same.

But juice..?

juiceAs said, we are not talking about link juice here, I know that’s the first kind of juice SEO’s think about, we are talking about actual real life juice. But still, what does a reaction from monkeys to giving away juice say about online marketing..?

It’s complicated… Well it’s not actually…

If we take the essence of what was tested here it’s the ‘giving away’ part. Say we indeed can compare the monkey to a human and say we then know that a human will feel good about giving something to someone else. That tells us that the human mind ‘wants to share’.

If you translate that to Social Media you could instantly conclude that people want to share content with others. Tweet it, share it on Facebook or Google. We get a kick out of that. So that would be great news for marketers using the Social Media principle: people want to share. So let them share, get content out there and get it shared!

One step further

Hold your horses. Before you all go running off and start spreading your feeds again on Facebook, hoping that others will share it, just because they feel the need to share, wait. I’d like you to think further than that, at least one step.

If people want to share, if they feel that need, they will want to help others. They want to share content, yes, but only if that content fits the needs of those they want to help. On top of that, the one sharing wants to feel good, it after all shows they are knowledgeable enough to share the content.

So if you create content that is shareable you should think about a few things:

  • the content needs to be interesting for both the people sharing as for those ‘receiving’: the goal is not just sharing, it must have some bones to it as well
  • it needs to give valuable information, but it should also have the trigger to share. But not just as in ‘share this and win’ please, the trigger should be that the person sharing is helping out others.

The trigger is that it needs to help others, because giving away something makes people feel good. So stop doing the ‘like and win’ campaigns on Facebook. And start the ‘who would you give something away to’ campaigns. You might not be winning a holiday to Spain, you might be giving away one though…

Get it? A monkey does…

Original research here
See also
Featured image source


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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