The concept for this book actually began late in 2009 when I began looking at the psychology behind why someone would want to naturally give someone else on the Internet a citation, or link, to their website. At that time I wrote a post on entitled “The Psychology Behind Link Giving.” During my research for the piece I was introduced to the work of a psychologist named Robert Plutchik. His work on emotional response outlines all behavior, but for me really explained the core concept behind the idea why certain content goes viral online and other content goes unseen.

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Robert Plutchik, a psychologist and professor of psychology, focused his work on the topic of emotions. His psychoevolutionary theory of emotion is arguably the most influential approach to emotional responses used in psychology.

This Theory has Ten Postulates:

  1. The concept of emotion is applicable to all evolutionary levels and applies to all animals including humans.
  2. Emotions have an evolutionary history and have evolved various forms of expression in different species.
  3. Emotions served an adaptive role in helping organisms deal with key survival issues posed by the environment.
  4. Despite different forms of expression of emotions in different species, there are certain common elements, or prototype patterns, that can be identified.
  5. There is a small number of basic, primary, or prototype emotions.
  6. All other emotions are mixed or derivative states; that is, they occur as combinations, mixtures, or compounds of the primary emotions.
  7. Primary emotions are hypothetical constructs or idealized states whose properties and characteristics can only be inferred from various kinds of evidence.
  8. Primary emotions can be conceptualized in terms of pairs of polar opposites.
  9. All emotions vary in their degree of similarity to one another.
  10. Each emotion can exist in varying degrees of intensity or levels of arousal.

In 1980, Plutchik created both a 3D cone and 2D wheel model for how emotions were related. This has become known as Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, and it graces the cover of this book. In the wheel, he suggested 8 primary bipolar emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Additionally, his circumplex model makes connections between the idea of an emotion circle and a color wheel. Like colors, primary emotions can be expressed at different intensities and can mix with one another to form different emotions.

Plutchik’s wheel has become a cornerstone of our training at CopyPress. Regardless of what area of the Content Lifecycle you are working within, the emotional response to a user is really something that must stay squarely in mind, because at the end of the day any reaction is more easily attained if focused on emotion.

This concept is further clarified through the concept of Emotional Self-Regulation, which is defined as:

“being able to properly regulate one’s emotions. It is a complex process that involves the initiating, inhibiting, or modulating the following aspects of functioning”

The concept is based on being able to understand each of the following:

  • Internal feeling states (i.e. the subjective experience of emotion),
  • Emotion-related cognitions (i.e. thought reactions to a situation),
  • Emotion-related physiological processes (i.e. heart rate, hormonal, or other physiological reactions)
  • Emotion-related behavior (i.e. actions or facial expressions related to emotion).

With Plutchik’s wheel we see the why, and with the concept of Emotional Self-Regulation we have the how. Thoughts beget feelings, and feelings initiate actions.

The marketer’s focus is in two places:

  1. Initiation Point – For this particular conversation, this is content.
  2. Result – This can be a number of things, but the most basic concept is traffic.

In many ways, people online have been utilizing this model for years. The classic direct marketing, and the online sales letter approach is based on this type of psychology. However, people have only used this approach to focus on the result of a sale to date, driving traffic from wherever they could get it. We are using emotion to drive the traffic itself, and this fact coupled with a strong conversion strategy will yield results that are tough to dismiss.

These training concepts within CopyPress led to three series on our blog by three different members of our staff. Each focuses on how to use emotions in different ways and for obtaining different results. As you work through this book, take note of how you could approach your content strategy with regard to these basic psychological concepts. To date there is not a vertical we have worked in where we couldn’t apply these concepts to increase traffic and sales.

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