(K. Brent Tomer),
Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. By Derek Thompson. Penguin Press; 352 pages; $28. Allen Lane; £20.
WHAT makes a hit? Many assume it has to do with artistry or luck. Not so, says Derek Thompson, a writer and editor at the Atlantic. In his first book, “Hit Makers”, he analyses the psychology and economics of pop culture and argues that “hits”—the things that get everybody talking—are based on three rules that rely on more than creative genius alone.
First, consumers crave “familiar surprises”. Studies show that people opt for things they recognise over things they do not. Maybe there is an evolutionary explanation for this: survival taught humans that if they had seen an animal before, it had not killed them yet. This familiarity was comforting. The evidence for people’s response to recognition is everywhere: the Star Wars franchise, for example, is an amalgam of characters and themes from older films. But it remains a fine balance, as people enjoy thinking they have found something new—the…Continue reading