By the time you start writing content, your brain has gone through years of development and learning. This process isn’t related to what facts and knowledge we gain while in school, but rather how we understand and interact with the world around us.
These innate abilities, such as communicating with other people, are hardwired into our brain even though we do not have them at birth. This is a function of a relatively modern study called evolutionary psychology.
As far-fetched as it may sound, learning specific aspects of human psychology caused by evolution can turn a good content creator into a great one. Many of the following psychological triggers will be elements you already use, but read thoroughly to understand why they are effective. You can then consciously use them in the future.
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For most of human history, our species has been hunter-gatherers. We lived in small bands, and this is how our brains are wired today. In 1992, British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, conducted a study of primates and humans, concluding that the maximum group size in a human tribe was around 150 people with 12 close-knit members. Dubbed “Dunbar’s number,” the study helps us understand how much humans need and seek a tribe.
Tribes were imperative for our ancestors to survive. The group took care of one another, and being ostracized from a tribe was assuredly a death sentence. This is why the urge to “fit in” and be part of the group is so strong in most people.
As it applies to content creation, you must recognize the tribe you are speaking to and focus specifically on their needs and desires. Your content isn’t going to resonate with everyone, and that is a good thing. You can use your content to apply to the specific tribe that you care about, and it will spread within this group. Humans have a very territorial attitude characterized by “us vs. them,” which is an element of this tribal behavior for you to leverage to improve how readers view your work.
One function of living a tribal life is the use of storytelling in the history of our species. Story elicits a far greater emotional response in the brain than any other form of content. This Spanish study confirmed via fMRI scans that stories light up certain parts of the brain that bullet points and facts cannot influence.
Consider how our ancestors shared moral virtues and wisdom throughout the ages. The Greeks created the oral traditions of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” Our early Christian ancestors wrote the Bible, and all of these stories were intended to help us live righteously.
These were and remain the most important influences in modern society and have stood the test of time where other information has not. When writing content of your own, consider what kind of story you are telling to help your readers better understand and remember a point. In this article, I’m weaving the story of our tribal ancestors throughout to show you how these psychological triggers formed and what we can do to leverage them more effectively in our content.
Imagine you are in the woods, cutting through thick jungles, and you hear a rustling in the leaves. Branches move, and your instant reaction is to run in the opposite direction. Another member of your tribe remains and becomes curious about what moved the leaves in the first place. His curiosity turns into horror when faced with a hungry panther.
I don’t have to tell you what happens next. This story has played out for generations in humans. Each time humans were faced with dangers in our environment, we had an option to be fearful or have no response. In much of our history, it has been beneficial to run away and ask questions later. Not doing so could mean becoming dinner for a hungry animal. More importantly, not running away meant not passing on genes to the next generation.
Because of this phenomenon, the surviving humans are those whose ancestors had the fear gene. This is one of the reasons why modern society is full of fear mongering. The news is primarily fear-based, and the “fear of missing out” is one of the biggest psychological factors that marketers use in order to sell goods and services.
Many people abuse the psychological trigger of fear, but used wisely and without inflating reality, it can be a useful tool that helps when you are creating content of your own. One useful application of this is…
No matter where you create content, your audience will have the fear response until they feel that they can trust you. Our ancestors weren’t only afraid of animals but also other humans who wanted to hunt in the same forest or gather the same berries.
Thus, when you are writing content, you can gain their trust and stop the fear response by being vulnerable yourself. There is a saying that you must put down your shield first in order for others to put theirs down. By making yourself vulnerable in your content, you tell readers that it is safe to be close and connected to you.
Since I have been released from prison, telling people about the experience has been one of the most vulnerable acts I have done. When I discuss quitting my old job to start a nootropics website, I share my fear and uncertainty with the project. Every time I expect this to hurt my reputation or chances of success, people reach out and tell me how much my story impacts them.
Understanding human psychology is a great tool. One can use the tool for good or for evil. My hope is that everyone wields this information responsibly in order to help people, teach them, and even provide a valuable product or service they desire. Although far too many people use it for other means, I have faith you will wield it righteously.
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