The psychology of video engagement

Cat laying amongst toilet paper unravelled on floor

Watch a cat video and your day brightens. 

Why is that?  

Psychological triggers. The emotional responses elicited by videos. 

It’s these triggers that cat videos press so effectively, and what many corporate videos lack. 

Are you steering your corporate videos to hit sweet spots of psychological engagement? 

  • The anchoring bias set by the first seconds of your video.
  • The way we’re drawn to faces and  movement.
  • Our natural connection to storytelling, to movement, to colour and contrast.

Mastering triggers like these can spell the difference between your content being shared organically with enthusiasm, or lying unnoticed.

Welcome to the art and science of driving success through video engagement tactics that work on a primal level.

Increasing engagement through video psychology

Emotions drive purchase decisions.

Yep, feelings always trump logical reasoning when consumers make choices.

This rings true in video marketing.

And for employee recruitment marketing.

Tugging viewers’ emotional strings spins a web of engagement, driving more action.

The subconscious mind is your powerful ally here.

Ever wondered why a particular scene from a movie stuck with you, but a page-long description in a book did not? 


Our brains subconsciously latch onto audio-visual cues, aiding in deeper engagement and better retention of concepts.


Video psychology taps into this unconscious behaviour.

It’s all about influencing the viewer’s emotions and attitudes through strategically placed visuals, sound, and narrative.

What does this mean? Here’s an example:

The narration pauses.

The music lifts for a few seconds. This catches your ear…

…and your emotions instinctively connect with this music surge.

Bringing you back into the story if your thoughts were drifting away.

What are psychological triggers in corporate videos?

Psychological triggers refer to stimuli that prompt automatic responses. 

Automatic. So they happen without thought.

Extensive neuroscientific research paints a picture of these cognitive reactions. 

They’re our brain’s hardwired predisposition to recognise patterns.

And our innate desire to gain understanding. 

Fields such as neurocinematics, studying cognitive responses to film, have even emerged around this study.

As an example, sensory cues – like that lift in an inspiring music track – grab our attention and connect us to a narrative. 

When incorporated into videos, they result in psychological responses that engage your audience.

You get more viewer engagement, prolonged viewer retention, increased shares, and heightened call-to-action responses. 

Understanding the science behind these triggers helps you create engaging corporate videos.

Examples of psychological triggers to enhance video engagement

Through the use of psychological triggers, corporate videos catch the attention of viewers, ensuring they aren’t just watching, but also engaging – and retaining.

Imagine it. 

A video that makes your viewers smile, almost shed a tear, or feel emotionally connected to the story behind the brand.

These reactions, while seemingly intangible, correlate with increased brand perception and affinity. 

A testimonial video that sparks trust could be the difference between a hesitant prospect and a willing client. 

Woman's head in silhouette profile with sunrise image superimposed inside brain

Emotion is a powerful trigger

Videos that evoke feelings – whether it’s joy, empathy, excitement, or even nostalgia – create a deeper connection with your audience. 

When viewers are emotionally engaged, they’re more likely to remember and respond to your message.

Smiling face of female video interviewee

Humans are hardwired to respond to faces

People relate to people.

There’s something about seeing a human face that instantly grabs our attention and fosters a sense of connection. 

It’s deeply rooted in our psychology.

When viewers see facial expressions, they empathise, building trust and relatability.

This emotional connection can make your message more impactful and memorable.

Watching an interviewee sharing an experience is far more persuasive than only hearing a voiceover or seeing text on screen.

And let’s not forget eye contact – even through a screen, it can create a sense of engagement and personal connection. 


Never underestimate the power of a human face in video content.


It’s a simple, yet effective way to make your message more engaging, personal, and impactful.

Female fisheries officer telling a story in video interview

Storytelling increases video engagement 

Storytelling engages the mind in a way that raw facts and numbers can’t compete with. 

Align this with your brand’s message and you have a psychological tool to elicit emotional responses.

By structuring your corporate video using stories, viewers are more likely to stay engaged from beginning to end. 

It’s a method that taps into our innate love for narratives.

How do you turn a corporate message into a captivating story? 

First, find the heart of your message.

What’s the core idea you want to share? 

Here’s a couple of examples:

You want to create a company anniversary video:

The heart of the message could be legacy, commitment, overcoming challenges, resilience.

You’d capture this ‘heart’ through interviews with your people and customers, having them share their stories that relate to these points.

You want to share your social responsibility:

The heart of this message could be how you make a positive impact, empower communities, and invest in the future.

Once you’ve got that, it’s all about building a narrative around it.

The best way to start this storytelling is through chats with your own team.

Video interviews turn responses into conversations that feel authentic.


The heart of the message should resonate with your audience on an emotional level

  • It should go beyond facts and figures to connect with human values and aspirations
  • It should provide a foundation for building a compelling and relatable story

Anchoring bias – the first few seconds of your video

The first few seconds of your video are like the front door to your story.

Inviting viewers in – or sending them scrolling away.

This is called ‘Anchoring Bias’ – where we rely heavily on the first piece of information encountered.

Let’s dive deeper into this.

Anchoring Bias is the human tendency to rely too much on the first piece of information we receive. 

In video content, this means your opening scene or statement is crucial. 

It sets the tone and expectations for everything that follows.

In these initial moments, you’ve got a tiny window to grab attention. 

How can you use this to your advantage? 

It’s not about being flashy. 

Your opening should be relevant and align with your overall message.

Maybe it’s a surprising fact, a bold benefit, or a compelling question. 

This first ‘anchor’ grabs attention and shapes the viewer’s perception of what’s to come.

For example, if you’re creating a video about a new product, begin with its most groundbreaking feature. 

This initial anchor ensures that the rest of your content is viewed through the lens of innovation.

Or, if your video aims to address a common problem, start by highlighting that problem in a relatable way. 

This sets the stage for your solution to be the focal point, as viewers are primed to see it as a much-needed answer.

Remember, the key is to make your first point memorable and impactful. 

It’s not just about informing; it’s about creating an emotional hook that keeps viewers engaged and shapes their understanding of your message. 


Viewers decide swiftly whether to stay or go. So, make these seconds count and use Anchoring Bias wisely.

One hand passing cutout red heart to another person's hand

The principle of reciprocity to boost video engagement

The ‘Rule of Reciprocity’ is another psychological principle that explains humans inherently feel obligated to return a favour. 

People feel obliged to give back when something is given to them. 

In video content, this could be valuable information, a compelling story, or even entertainment. 

Your video can create this sense of loyalty and increase the likelihood of them engaging with your brand.

Limited offer graphic

Scarcity and urgency – the fear of missing out

Psychologically, nobody wants to be left out.

Creating a sense of scarcity or urgency can prompt viewers to take action. 

So another strategy involves exploiting this with the FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon. 

Highlighting deadline offers or limited availability can create urgency, driving action from your viewer. 

It taps into the fear of missing out and can be a powerful motivator.

Time lapse image of cars on road with lights showing as streaks

Visual and auditory stimuli

The right combination of visual and audio elements will capture and hold attention. 

Striking images, strategic special effects, compelling music and sound effects, and a strong narrative voice can all contribute to a more engaging and immersive video experience.

The psychology behind viewer engagement

Why are our brains wired to engage with certain types of visual information over others? 

It’s due to evolutionary factors, psychological predispositions, and the way our visual processing system works. 

Here’s a breakdown of why this happens:


Historically, survival often depended on quick visual processing


Our ancestors needed to quickly detect threats and opportunities in their environment. 

As a result, our brains evolved to prioritise certain visual stimuli – like movement or faces – that were often crucial for survival.

We’re naturally drawn to movement

This trait can be traced back to our need to detect predators or prey. 

In modern contexts, moving images or dynamic visuals can quickly grab our attention over static ones.

Human brains are particularly attuned to faces 

We have specialised areas in the brain dedicated to facial recognition. 

This focus on faces likely evolved as social interactions became crucial for survival. 

Our eyes and brains are sensitive to colour and contrast

These elements can signify various things in our environment – from ripe fruits and vegetables to changes in landscapes. 

In visual content, vibrant colours and strong contrasts attract attention and convey specific moods or messages.

The human brain excels at recognising patterns

This ability helps us make sense of complex information quickly. 

Patterns, whether in nature or in video design, draw our attention and make information easier to understand and remember.

We are naturally curious beings

We’re drawn to novel and unusual sights.

A trait that encourages exploration and learning. 

Unexpected elements or surprises – like a strategically placed a visual effect – make videos more engaging. 

In a world full of familiar stimuli, anything unique or different stands out and captures our interest.

Our brains are wired to engage with stories

Narratives help us make sense of the world and our place in it. 

Visual storytelling is particularly compelling as it combines several engaging elements like faces, emotions, movement, and colour.

Narratives draw our attention because our minds inherently seek to connect dots, solve puzzles, and understand stories. 

Expert opinions on the psychology of video engagement

Many experts believe that tapping into human emotions is key to driving engagement. 

Research widely indicates that positive emotions towards a brand foster customer loyalty. This relationship is underpinned by several key findings:

A study by Deloitte Digital highlighted the importance of emotional responses in the connection between consumers and brands. 

Initially, consumers might focus on rational aspects like price, loyalty programs, or promotions, but emotional responses play a significant role in driving long-term loyalty​​.

According to research discussed on Oracle’s blog, a significant percentage of consumers with high emotional engagement consistently think of and purchase from brands they are loyal to. 

This contrasts sharply with those who have low emotional engagement, highlighting the substantial impact of emotional connections on loyalty and purchasing behaviour​​.

Key takeaways

Video content is not just about delivering information.

It should be about creating an emotional connection with your audience. 

Psychological triggers help you do that.

  • Use anchoring bias to catch attention straight up
  • Include faces to appeal to your human audience
  • Tell stories to increase engagement
  • Use the ‘Rule of Reciprocity’ and the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ 
  • Include social proof from customers to reassure
  • Use vision and audio techniques to catch the eye AND the ear
  • Stay consistent with your branding and messaging
  • Demonstrate expertise to build the trust factor

All play pivotal roles in making your video more engaging. 

Remember, it’s the emotionally resonant videos that drive results, be it raising brand awareness, generating leads, driving sales, or recruiting and training employees. 

It’s time to see corporate video as more than a business tool – it’s a powerful medium to connect, captivate, and convert your audience. 

By applying these psychological principles, you can craft video experiences that capture attention, generate engagement, and ultimately drive your desired outcomes.

Video on your radar?