What Makes an Image Go Viral? Could Be as Simple as Color

Illustration for article titled What Makes an Image Go Viral? Could Be as Simple as Color

Never before in human history has it been so easy to share, like, pin, reblog, images. That's, like, totally awesome for teenage girls showing off their prom dresses but also a pretty huge boon for scientists studying what makes images shareable. And it could be something as simple as color.

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A paper published this month in PLoS ONE examines what color has to do with Pinterest popularity. The study took a million random image posts or "pins" from the site and analyzed them for their predominant color and number of repins. The key takeaway? Red, pink, and purple seem to promote repinning, while green, blue, black, and yellow seem to suppress it.

That's not terribly surprising, especially since Pinterest is so heavily female-dominated. But it's not simply that Pinterest is a sea of red, pink, and purple. The most common predominant color was actually yellow (27 percent) and the least common purple-red (0.2 percent).

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The study's authors dip into the psychology of color to begin making sense of their results. Red, for example, obviously has so many powerful associations with love and lust. Pink walls has been found to calm prison inmates. Of course, there's also the interplay of content and color, which the study did not get to examine. Recipes are especially popular on Pinterest, so are fashion and crafts, which may drive certain colors.

It would also be interesting to see how the role of color might differ on different social networks like Flickr and Instagram and Imgur. They're all, at their core, image-sharing sites, but their audiences and purposes differ so radically—so too, probably, their rules of color popularity.

[PLoS ONE]

Top image: shutterstock/avian

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DISCUSSION

randompants
randompants

If I recall, didn't Gizmodo run an article within the last sixth months or so about how on Instagram, the most popular (liked) images tended towards blue tones, with large amounts of negative space?

Crap...my search-fu is failing me at the moment, and I can't find the article. Anyone else remember it, or am I dreaming all this?