5 Reasons Your Brain Loves Listicles

March 4, 2016

Ahh listicles, the hybrid prodigy of a household chore and journalism that has pretty much become the go-to method for publishing content on the internet. Marketers, popular youth blogs, even traditional newspapers have taken to organising their digital content into ordered lists to win the hearts, minds and clicks of their readers. It seems like the only thing we like more than complaining about how much we hate listicles is actually reading them…but why is that?

As it turns out, there is genuine science that explains why we prefer to spend our time reading ‘the top 10 ways to improve your productivity’ instead of actually doing something productive.

So without further adieu, we present you our list of reasons we love list articles.

 They help us feel less overwhelmed.

Despite what you may think, people are often less happy when presented with too many good options to choose from. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘the paradox of choice’ and it’s pretty much the long scientific explanation for F.O.M.O. The more choice we have, the more anxious we become that we’ll pick the wrong thing. Lists help us to overcome this in two subtle ways. The first is that a headline like, ‘5 reasons your brain loves listicles’, tells readers exactly what the article will contain and gives an indication of how long the article will be. This allows us to make a more informed decision about whether an article is worth our time. The definitive nature of lists also puts our mind at ease by ranking things, making decision making easier for us. When we read the ‘Top 5 ways to de-stress’, we feel relaxed knowing we’re not missing out on a valuable de-stress technique.

They assure us of closure.

Congratulations if you’re reading this – you are a statistical anomaly. Our tendency to skim read actually means the average person only reads 28 words of any given piece of content.  Listicles help us feel confident that we’ll be able to decipher the key takeaway from the sub-headings, even if we don’t read the whole thing.

They appeal to our processes.

When we discover new information, our brain tends to be more type- A personality. It wants to store things in a neat and orderly fashion. We love listicles because the hard work has already been done for us.

They make content memorable.

Our spatial memory likes white space. It helps us to digest and store information.

That’s why we write shopping lists vertically instead of horizontally and why we put spaces in phone or credit card numbers.

They help us to organise the chaos.

Doug Foresta, clinical psychologist at Change Happens, sums it up best:

“As human beings we come into a world that seems chaotic, and we have a desire to make sense of things. When we create lists we are creating order out of chaos, and the structure helps to alleviate our anxiety.”

When it comes down to it, listicles are a fantastic user-experience design for content marketing. They are intuitive and cater to the needs of the reader. Which is just one of the top 10 reasons you should get listing.