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BBC World Service Review: The Why Factor

The Why Factor is a short weekly programme which investigates the reasons humans act in the way they do in the 21st century.

Mike Williams, the presenter, looks into why crazes take off, starting with Pokemon Go which has exploded onto the scene recently. In trying to understand the appeal of crazes such as these, Williams interviews Ben Michaelis, a psychologist, who talks about crazes often taking off due to a seemingly minor trigger like the weather. Pokemon Go became popular over the summer and it seems the two were linked as people wanted to be outdoors enjoying the better weather – and what better way to do that, than hunt down some Pokemon?

The programme continues by looking at other major recent crazes, such as the phenomenon of the adult colouring book, invented by Johanna Basford, and the Rainbow Loom which involves making jewellery from tiny rubber bands. All three crazes have generated sizeable revenues for their inventors, which at times seems to make this programme more like a very successful episode of Dragon’s Den instead of a psychological investigation. I would have preferred a little more psychology but, if nothing else, this programme certainly highlighted the more peculiar aspects of the human race.

Mike Williams has also recently looked into the fad that is pet videos in another episode of The Why Factor. Perhaps the most famous pet of the online world is ‘Grumpy Cat’ who has captured the hearts of the nation with her perpetually gloomy expression (Google it if you are none the wiser – it is worth a few minutes of your day!). The appeal of pet videos seems to be connected to their ability to give viewers a positive emotional boost, according to Assistant Professor Jessica Gall Myrick. I was also interested to learn that they are used as a means of self-expression in countries where freedom of speech is limited, like China, because they can evade censoring tools. You will never look at your favourite cat video in the same way again …

Image: Garry Knight @ Flickr

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