Internet Psychology from Graham Jones

Welcome to another weekly digest of material from my website Enjoy. But dopamine does more than this. For instance, it is associated with attention – too little dopamine and you find it difficult to pay attention for very long. Dopamine is also what helps make you social – people with social phobias and anxieties, for instance, tend to have problems with dopamine production or transmission. Assuming you don’t have any dopamine-related disorders, you can see how this brain chemical can make youngsters like Justin Bieber. The rise in dopamine makes them feel good due to its mood altering effects, it makes the teenagers more social and it makes them pay full attention to the music, helping to shut out distractions. Hang on a minute….isn’t that the kind of behaviour you want for your website visitors? Don’t you also want them to feel good about your products and services? And surely you want them to be social and tell everyone else about them? And it’s a fair bet you don’t want your visitors to be distracted by the beep of their email? What websites need is a dopamine trigger. The more dopamine you can produce in your visitors, the more you will gain from the impact it has in terms of the likeability of your content, the degree to which it is shared and the time people spend on your site. But how do you produce that dopamine? There is a clue in the second aspect of the neuroscience study of teenagers. That is the repetitive nature of listening to the same music which lays down the neural pathways. One of the mistakes websites make is to constantly try to say new things. But that means you are not helping to firm up those neural pathways in your visitors. To do that, you need to be repetitive. You need to say the same things, over and over again – just use different forms of words to avoid boredom. Repeating your messages helps construct those neural pathways in the brains of your regular visitors. And once those pathways are established, the dopamine can get to work. But that assumes one simple thing – your website messages are about the things your visitors like. The more you talk about yourself, the less you’ll lay down those neural pathways in your visitors and the less dopamine you’ll be responsible for. In other words, you need to repeatedly write the same things which your audience loves. That way their brains will do the rest and your website will reap the rewards – just like a teenage girl’s brain high on Bieber Fever.
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Justin Bieber reveals what your website needs

Canadian teenager Justin Bieber is just 18 and has been a worldwide phenomenon for the past four years having been discovered by a music industry talent scout trawling across YouTube. But even more amazing is the mass hysteria seen amongst his fans – known collectively as “Beliebers”. These are mostly teenage girls who swoon, camp out for days to get tickets to his concerts and clearly adore him. It is all rather reminiscent of The Beatles back in the 1960s or women throwing their knickers at the 72-year-old Tom Jones. According to Fox News, a neuroscientist has been able to study the brains of teenage pop fans and has discovered a couple of interesting facts. Firstly, listening to some Justin Bieber music leads to a rapid increase of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Not only that, the repeated listening to the pop star’s hits reinforces some neural pathways, helping to “permanently wire” the likeability of the songs. None of this should be unexpected. When we love things a great deal we all get increases of dopamine inside our brains. Indeed, it is the dopamine rush which helps make us feel we like things. Excess levels of dopamine and the poor control of dopamine levels is associated with clinical levels of addition. Nicotine, for instance, contributes to increases in dopamine in the brain.

• What’s behind Bieber fever? explanation (



• Inside the Brains of Justin Bieber Fans (


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But more importantly in terms of being liked, Google+ has not listened. It has focused so much on itself, it has forgotten what the users really want – unless you are in that niche of young, male technology geeks who form a core of Google+ users. Hang on a minute – that sounds like Google itself. Perhaps the fact that Google+ hasn’t really succeeded is that it has committed that cardinal sin of business – internal focus and trying to outwit the competition, rather than focusing on the needs and requirements of the customer.
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Google+ fails the “like” test

It is now a year since Google introduced its fifth stab at social networking, Google+. So, has it been the “Facebook Killer” it set out to be? Hardly. Facebook has added more people in the past year than Google+ has received in total interest. Google+ has had 170m people sign up for it in the past 12 months, but in that time Facebook has grown by 200m users. Other interesting statistics reveal that each month, on average, people spend just 5-minutes on Google+ yet almost 7 hours on Facebook. Indeed, people spend considerably more time on Tumblr or Pinterest than on Google+.

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You need to be like Martin McGuinness

This must be really bad news for Google. They have put their all into Google+, indeed 25% of the staff bonuses are now linked to the performance of Google+. So everyone has an incentive to make it work. Yet, clearly, it isn’t really working. There is one sector in which you will find Google+ fans, people who have ditched Facebook in favour of Google+. These are young men in the high-tech sector. They love Google+. The rest of us, well, we simply do not like it at all, the statistics suggest. So why is that? All the pundits agree Google+ is better designed than Facebook, being cleaner and with more obvious navigation, clearer buttons and so on. Google has also pumped in massive marketing budget and included Google+ in its search engine ranking system, almost forcing website owners to use Google+. Yet in spite of all this Google+ users, on average, return to the site only once every 12 days. What’s going on? The answer is simple. Most people do not like it. Less than 7% of the entire online world uses it – almost 94% of web users completely ignore Google+. That compares with almost 45% of the online world using Facebook every day…! If people like something, they tend to use it regularly. Google+ has several features which make it easy to unlike. Firstly, it is too pervasive. Throughout the Google network of sites, from the search engine to Gmail and beyond, Google+ lurks trying to grab your attention. It’s rather like an annoying toddler poking you in the ribs every couple of minutes. Secondly, in spite of its design simplicity, Google+ is rather complex to use compared with Facebook. Like so many other online companies Google – unusually – has gone for design over function. Yet it is function that wins the day in terms of likeability.

In Northern Ireland today history will be made when The Queen shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness. When he was busy trying to gain support for a united Ireland, The Queen was grieving the death of her husband’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The Roman Catholic and former republican terrorist will shake hands with the Head of the Church of England who is also the Head of the British Armed Forces who fought against Mr McGuinness. When he was engaged in commanding attacks on Protestants he probably could never have imagined such a day.

But if Mr McGuinness were to say that he had changed, that he had realised that peaceful ways were the way forward we would be less likely to believe him. After all he would say that wouldn’t he? The fact that for the past 15 years Mr McGuinness has been a peaceful politician working hard on a peace process that, for the most part, has endured is something we might forget when confronted with the fact that he was regarded by the British Government as a terrorist. However, by shaking hands with the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, The Queen is publicly saying that The State now

accepts Mr McGuinness; she is doing his publicity for him. The mere fact that The Queen is shaking the hand of Mr McGuinness gives him additional credibility. No matter which side of the argument about Northern Ireland you may be on, this handshake changes thinking. It is the “third party” nature of the credibility provided for Mr McGuinness which is so important. One of the principles of persuasion and influence is called “social proof”; when other people are seen to be doing something we are more likely to want to do it ourselves – especially (as in the case of The Queen) if they are an authority figure. Today’s handshake therefore makes it more likely people will be persuaded of the reform of Mr McGuinness. The handshake also coincides with interesting research on the political progress of the candidates for election to the post of the President of the United States. Researchers have looked at the impact of advertising on how the public support for each candidate has changed. In particular, the study looked at the value of “attack” advertising, where one candidate was negative about the other. The researchers found that such advertising had considerably more impact when it was produced by independent groups, rather than by candidates themselves. In other words, candidates who said nasty things about the opposition had much less effect than independent organisations saying the same things. It is another example of the “third party” effect. When you say your business is brilliant, people say “yeah, great, I knew you would say that”. But when someone else says your business is great the reaction is “really, that’s interesting, thanks for recommending them to me”. Ultimately, it means you need to be like Martin McGuinness, riding on the coat tails of a third party doing your publicity for you. Not only do you gain credibility, you also get the “social proof” effect and you don’t suffer the “you would say that” reaction.
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But what about if the European leaders said “Here is a loan of €100bn which you need to pay back, meaning you will have to cut your public services to finance the loan”. It’s the same thing – because that is what Greece and Spain have to do as part of the small print of receiving the cash. But if the European leaders were to say that, it would be negative framing and we’d accept it less.

You can see framing effects all over the web. Google, for instance, say that its Apps are a “better way of working”. Really, better than what? Eventbrite says “If it is happening out there you’ll find it in here”. Really, even if the organisers have never heard of Eventbrite? Framing is a technique used by marketing of all kinds to get your mind into a more accepting mode and to be less rational or logical. Indeed, you probably use framing techniques throughout your business to make people think good things about the products and services you offer. But that could be a problem. New research shows that framing only works in the reader’s own language. When someone reads something in a second language to their native tongue the framing effect disappears and they become logical and rational. That means if your website is only in English your framing techniques will only work on your visitors who speak English as their first language. If you are trying to appeal to an international audience the framing effects you have created will disappear, according to this new research. There is only one way out of this – make sure your website is available in all the languages for which you want to have an impact. In that way, your visitors will be able to read your text in their native tongue and the framing effects will be preserved.
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• The Queen to meet Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness in historic meeting ( • Queen and Martin McGuinness to shake hands – BBC News (

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The economic woes of Europe are fascinating to watch because the politicians are conducting classic politics without addressing the real issue. Politicians are masters at the psychological technique of “framing”. This is where information is presented in such a way that it has a different impact compared with giving the material in another way. So, for instance, the European politicians are framing their assistance for Greece and Spain by talking about “€100bn has been provided in support”. That makes it sound as though they are helping, that they are digging deep into their pockets and that they are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. We are “framed” positively.

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Your business needs single women over 31

over 31 exert even more influence than men in general implies something else is also happening. Combine authority (by being your subject expert) with caring for your audience and you are on to real influence. As for the England team, they clearly need to appoint a single woman as manager. I wonder how that would work in the dressing room though?
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So, once again, England lost on penalties.Even a new manager, who is widely regarded as a great footballing man with significant influence on the players, could not cast aside the spell which seems to beset the England Football Team. Lots of things were changed in the run-up to Euro 2012 – players wives and girlfriends were allowed on the trip (unlike before), relaxation was deemed an important part of training, and they practised penalties (much good that did them). Yet in spite of these changes, England remained the same, defensive, ramshackle team that cannot keep the ball nor realise that the whole point of the game is to score goals, not solely to stop the other side from scoring.

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So, in spite of the changes to the management and the training, how come the England Team were not influenced to change? Influence is an interesting psychological conundrum. If you are influenced by what I say, why? What is going on that makes you susceptible to the influence of others? What do those other people do to influence you? Can you prevent yourself from being influenced? These are all interesting questions which many academic psychologists are trying to find answers to. But nowadays, the Internet provides them with a whole new area of research. How do you influence other people, merely by a comment on a blog post, or with a Tweet, for instance? Luckily, research at the University of California has, for the first time, provided us with statistically significant results about online influence. This study looked at 42,000 messages from over 7,700 Facebook users. The results show that, marginally, men are more influential than women – though women are more influential over men. The study also revealed age differences for influence, as well as whether the individual was single or married. It turns out that if you really want to be influential you need to be a single woman aged over 31. Now, before you rush off and change your online profiles to pretend to be such an individual, you might need to consider why this might be. For single women, aged over 31 there is significant biological and social pressure nagging away at them – to reproduce. They therefore have the greatest biological need to be influential – to get a mate, quick. Crudely, their biological clock is ticking faster and so they could well adopt behaviours which make it more likely that they get their man. Their maternal instincts are kicking in. And what is the biggest maternal instinct? Caring. Yet again, this study points the way that caring for your audience, your readers, your website visitors is fundamental to success. True, overall men are more influential than women – but that is to do with power and authority. The fact that single women and those aged

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