Neuroaesthetics and social media 101

Neuroaesthetics and social media 101

When it comes to social media, looks matter. But in the data-driven digital marketing world, we all want to find the “formula” for achieving the right visual brand. That’s what neuroaesthetics and social media is all about.

Over the years, researchers have studied the impact aesthetics have on humans – the effects on our moods, decisions and more. But can you use that research to fuel your social media content, along with your overall marketing strategy?

Learn how neuroaesthetics and social media work:


What are neuroaesthetics?

Neuroaesthetics is an emerging discipline that aims to use science to understand how aesthetics affect people neurologically. Can science measure (or define) beauty?

Person selects colour swatches from iPad while working on computer

Is there a science to increasing your brand’s visual appeal?

Have you ever bought something because the packaging was appealing? No, me neither…

Research does suggest that willingness-to-pay is associated with right prefrontal activation. A study by Tomohiro Ishizu and Semir Zeki also found that beauty increases blood flow to the medial orbito-frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that impacts memory and decision making.

It seems like the right aesthetics truly can influence human behaviour. So if you’re using social media to sell a product or service, seeking out more studies on aesthetics could prove worthwhile.

But here’s the thing: No matter what, beauty is subjective. There’s no right, and no wrong (except for these design fails). That’s why getting to know your target audience’s tastes is important. You’re not out to please everyone; you’re out to please your audience.

Book of neuroaesthetics and social media colour swatches sitting on desk next to computer

Ramachandran’s nine principles

While neuroaesthetics might not be an exact science, there are some common design principles that could benefit your brand strategy.

For example, Vilayanur Ramachandran, a leading neuroscientist, took a deep-dive into the visual cues that spark pleasure in human brains. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen the following principles at work in ads, logos social media graphics and more:

1. Symmetry: In nature, symmetry often represents wellbeing. Asymmetry, on the other hand, signals danger or illness, which sets off our internal alarm bells.

2. Peak shift: Exaggerated features (think caricatures).

3. Isolation: White space.

4. Grouping: Assembling similar shades and patterns.

5. Contrast: As Etchr Lab puts it, “Tonal contrast can be used to direct the eyes of our audiences to see things the way they’re meant to be seen.”

6. Perceptual problem-solving (a.k.a. Peekaboo): Adding interest and satisfaction to images by making them less visible. People love a good visual illusion.

7. Abhorrence of coincidence: Visual coincidences set off alarm bells – they feel wrong or contrived. The rule of thirdsis a great way to avoid this!

8. Orderliness: While anything overly orderly can feel improbable and boring, a little order prevents visual chaos.

9. Visual Metaphors: A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Abstract images can convey tons of messages and information – and our brains love solving riddles.

Two women holding Instagram photo frame over yellow and orange background

How can you use neuroaesthetics in your digital marketing strategy?

Ultimately, what matters is your target audience’s tastes in visual design. There isn’t an end-all-be-all answer to what aesthetic they’ find appealing. What’s working, and what’s not? Try A/B testing, playing around with social media posts, digging into your analytics or conducting surveys.

Luckily, you can bring on marketing pros to help you out! If you’re ready for a brand refresh but aren’t sure where to start, get in touch with us.

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