There’s a neuroscience explanation for why we generally opt for video content over a message communicated by reading or hearing. It’s because we don’t have a choice. The primitive regions of our brain can’t resist paying attention to moving images – on a screen, or in “real life”. It’s not surprising that video traffic made up for 55 per cent of global mobile activity at the end of 2014.
Our hardwired reaction to movement is a survival instinct called a startle reflex. It’s always on the alert for potential danger. And, to make sure we remember the cause for the alarm, each time we’re jolted into a startle reflex we’re rewarded with a fix of dopamine, the neurochemical manufactured between our ears, and a close relative of cocaine and amphetamines.
For example the primitive brain doesn’t react much to a fixed image of a car. This gives the modern brain (prefrontal cortex) time to consider its relevance to us. Do we need it? Can we afford it? Do we really want it?
As soon as images begin to move, the higher functions of our modern, human brain, like impulse control, critical analysis, and long-term planning take a back seat to a mindset captivated by primal fears. If the camera or animation changes angles, cuts, or zooms to trigger the viewer’s startle response repeatedly, every 3-10 seconds, our brains are left wide open and available to whatever ideas, feelings, and suggestions move across the screen.
Television viewers become extremely suggestible, and more inclined to believe the same sales pitch than if it were made with radio or in print. The amped-up speed and action of violent video games hold player’s brains in a constant state of startle reflex. Gamers’ minds and bodies are hijacked by the emotions and behavior in the game, and are rewarded with enormous doses of addictive dopamine for their virtual survival. These brain facts have not been lost on advertisers or the 80 billion dollar video gaming industry.