Anytime you have a very famous person attack an extraordinarily famous person, it’s going to be news, of course.
So it’s no surprise that the security video of Solange going after Jay Z in an elevator has become not just a viral story, but a pandemic one. But through the lens of social psychology, it’s almost as though this event were engineered to maximize its appeal to the human brain.
Nick DiFonzo, one of the top rumor researchers in the world and author of The Watercooler Effect: A Psychologist Explores the Extraordinary Power of Rumors, explained in an email that this event “is prime rumor material” for several reasons. First, he noted that human beings are naturally fascinated by, and likely to pass along, certain kinds of information — notably, anything pertaining to conflict, to high-status individuals, and to visually spectacular events. (This particular event hit the trifecta.) Then there are the tantalizing gaps in our knowledge: What was being said? Why did she attack him? DiFonzo and other researchers suggest that this kind of uncertainty is catnip to the human brain. “People are puzzle solvers; when confronted with an unexplained and highly interesting event, they will immediately begin to speculate,” DiFonzo wrote. “People are also social animals, and so the puzzle solving is carried out as a collective process.” The internet, of course, is the ultimate machine for collective problem-solving, whether productive or otherwise.
So in the spirit of collective puzzle solving, Science of Us asked 100 New Yorkers what they thought was going on between Jay Z, Beyoncé, and Solange. Here is what they said (and thanks for the video, Abraham Riesman):