How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Diffusion and Surprise
When people hear, see or otherwise experience things that surprise them, they are more likely to tell others about it than if they were not
Surprise is a variable, ranging from slight surprise to outright amazement. People tend to have a 'tell people' surprise level, above which they are much more likely to communicate their experience.
A person hears a joke with a novel ending. They pass it on to many friends.
A frumpy-looking woman turns up on a talent contest and turns out to have a very good singing voice. A video showing her and the judges' surprise is watched by millions around the world within a single week of the episode. She goes on to sell many records. [As happened with Susan Boyle on the 2009 'Britain's Got Talent' TV show].
A woman gets stood up at her wedding. In a very short time all her friends and acquaintances know about it.
Surprise is often pleasant, and we like to share our pleasurable experience with others. More rationally, aking other people happy gains us social capital and so we will use passing on a pleasant surprise as a means to getting others to like and admire us.
We can also get pleasure in the discomfort of others and this happens when people have nasty surprises. For example A has an unpleasant surprise and tells B. B feels relief that it has not happened to her and offers sympathy. B later tells C and they both sympathize about A whilst privately feeling luckier (and hence happier) than they did before.
Surprise is a component of learning. We predict what will happen and when things do not turn out as expected, we learn, changing our prediction model. Passing on a surprise to others also helps them learn. In an evolutionary sense, this helps preserve the people we know and like.
The implication for creating diffusion is to seek ways of surprising people, rather than giving a simple message. Advertisers do this quite frequently.