The New York Times Consumer Insight Group, in association with Latitude Research, recently concluded a study – The Psychology of Sharing. As a mass media company, their goal was to understand why consumers and social media users do what they do. Through conducting in-person interviews, a one-week immersion panel, and a survey of 2,500 sharers, they think they figured it out. 

In a nutshell, thanks to the advent and insurgence of social media, we each now share more content with more people more often and more quickly. It's the information age, after all. And one of the keys to the psychology is something the report calls “information management.” It seems that, by sharing:

  • 85 percent “say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information and events” 
  • 73 percent of the respondents “say they process information more deeply, thoroughly, and thoughtfully”


As for motivators in the sharing arena, it seems we are a thoughtful bunch. Lest we lose ourselves in the world wide web, at the heart of all this give and take remain our personal, human connections, particularly because the world has gotten smaller and we all enjoy more global relationships. If a status update falls in the woods and nobody reads it… right? 

  • 94 percent claim to “carefully consider how the information they share will be useful to the recipient”  
  • 78 percent “share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with”

Activism is another major driver:

  • 84 percent “share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about” 
  • 49 percent use online sharing “to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action”

Among those who actively share online, the research also identified six personas based on, among other things, emotional motivations. They are:

  • Altruists

  • Careerists

  • Hipsters

  • Boomerangs

  • Connectors

  • Selectives

Two main take-aways for content publishers and brand managers from the study are the fact that e-mail still reigns supreme and simple, humorous messages steal the day.

Kelly McCartney


Kelly McCartney |

Having won prestigious literary competitions in both grade school and junior high, I attended college with a Scripps Howard Foundation scholarship, earned a BA in Journalism, and interned at Entertainment

Things I share: I seek. I write. I think. I roam. I listen. I care. I wonder. I help. I flirt. I try. I dream. I grow.