The Top 10 Emotions Found in the Most Shareable Images

Viral content on the internet can translate into a strong brand, and that can translate into an amazing business in 2016… just ask Dollar Shave Club, which should really just be renamed the Billion Dollar Shave Club at this point. So, how do you capitalize on viral content? By making sure your content triggers the right emotional response to go viral.

Writing at Hubspot, Andrea Lehr unpacks the research and data collection process that revealed the top emotional responses to the 100 most shareable images on the /r/pics subreddit. The results are displayed below:


Most notably, the emotions are incredibly positive. But there’s more research digging into the reasons behind these emotions:

“Researchers Jacopo Staiano of Sorbonne University and Marco Guerini of Trento Rise studied the roles that valence, arousal, and dominance play in generating viral content — three dimensions that help shape individual emotions.

Consider their individual contributions below:

  • Valence is the positivity or negativity of an emotion. Happiness has a positive valence; fear has a negative valence.

  • Arousal ranges from excitement to relaxation. Anger is a high-arousal emotion; sadness is low-arousal.

  • Dominance ranges from submission to feeling in control. Fear is low-dominance; an emotion someone has more choice over, such as admiration, is high-dominance.”

The article continues unpacking the combinations of these three signifiers that work best to snag audiences and ensure shareable images, but the important factors come from the audiences themselves. What emotions do they feel after seeing your images or video? Try to aim for those on the list above.

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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