Despite living in the 21st century, our brains are hard-wired with primitive impulses. For example, we know there’s a refrigerator down the hall full of food. We aren’t starving. However, if we go a little longer than normal without feeding our stomachs, our bodies go into conservation mode because our biology only understands feast, or famine. Our brains prioritize input the same way.
Think about when you browse your social media. Even though we’re looking at a machine capable of accessing the entirety of human knowledge, our brain is cataloging things on an animal level. Text is neutral, and thus it can fade into the background if we’re not specifically searching for something. Pictures arrest our eye, because they’re more immediate. Video is even more immediate, and even though we know we’re not looking at people who are present in the room with us, our brains don’t know that. It’s why we pay attention.
Now we, of course, recognize when we’re watching a video. We know, academically, that if we’re on YouTube, or an ad pops up, that it’s just an ad. The MGM lion roaring doesn’t make us run in terror, because we know there is not a lion in the room in front of us. But the noise, the motion, and the imitation of reality hooks our brains, and makes us pay attention. Unlike reading text, where we have to put in effort to figure out what we’re looking at, video sneaks in along with the rest of our perceptions of reality.
That’s why web video works. Because it’s easy to absorb, and because it demands our brains look at it long enough to evaluate what we’re seeing. Sometimes that’s all the time you need.