Neuroscience and Infotainment

June 18, 2010 • Digital News, Specialist Journalism • by

How neurological elements of arousal play into news

According to Jack Fuller, author of What is Happening to News? The Information Explosion and the Crisis in Journalism, we can count indefinitely on fear and sex to attract the eye.

While professionally trained journalists are taught to steer clear of leaning heavily on the appeals of raw emotion in reporting, audiences still seem to fall for them. Stories steeped in lust and gore and swine/bird/marmot flu are the champions of media attention. Apparently, we’re suckers for a good old fashioned emotional bombshell. And there’s a neurological explanation.

An emotionally aroused brain is drawn to things that are emotionally charged, and the environment of perpetual information we all exist in leaves us consistently aroused. “Not only has the explosion of competition among suppliers of information—news, advertising and entertainment—caused producers to increase the emotional temperature, the recipients of information have become more attracted to emotional heat,” explains Fuller, who believes a neuroscience-based answer to the question of why professionally undisciplined purveyors of news are gaining while adherents to standard models of professional journalism decline.

See Niemen Reports for more.

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