The psychology of listicles. Love them or hate them, you’re still going to click the link and read them. Both writers and readers alike have bemoaned listicles, and yet they only continue to grow in popularity. Listicles are not a content writing mistake, they work. And while it seems like listicles are a recent blight on journalism and writing, they’ve actually been around for quite some time, even harkening back to ancient origins.

The first listicles featured the likes of the Ten Commandments, and in modern history, important documents such as the U.S. Constitution. Yet the advance of online writing has propelled listicles forward into a new age, and now they dominate online press sites, blog sites, and all sources of online news.

The saturation is a bit much, we agree, and yet we still click away. Why? Why this madness?! I don’t need to see another 13 reasons why kittens are cute! Or ten ways to lose weight. Or 5 benefits of calling my grandmother.

Rest assured, you are not crazy; the psychology of listicles explains the reasons why we are drawn to them like moths to a flame. So keep reading to learn 5 reasons why you click on listicles and why reading them is actually a good thing.

psychology of listicles

The Psychology of Listicles

1. Lists Are Memorable

One of the reasons phone numbers contain hyphens is because it makes them easier to remember. When we space things out or break things up, it’s easier for our brains to retain the information. Listicles are broken up by numbered subheadlines, so even if you don’t remember everything that is in the article, you can at least retain the key points. Our brains like this. It makes them happy. And it makes them want to click on that listicle about 22 ways to break up with your cell phone, just in case you need to someday.

2. Lists Are Time Savers

Ideally, we would all be able to take our leisurely time and read an article in its entirety, but most of us can only get away with skimming an article before our boss rounds the corner and it’s time to get back to work. Or hey, maybe you’re a workaholic, but you want to stay current with the latest news and information. Whatever your work ethic or lifestyle, if you’re busy, a listicle will give you a quick fix and then let you get on with your busy day. Unless you get sucked into Buzzfeed. Then it’s a downward spiral into the depths of listicles from which you may never return.

3. Lists Make Us Feel Organized

As soon as your brain comes across new information, it gets all type-A personality on you and needs to organize what it just learned. Feeling organized has a calming effect, which eases stress, and helps make us more productive. So when your brain comes across a listicle it goes “ahhh” and breathes a sigh of relief.

4. Lists Provide Context

Listicles partially function like a table of contents. You know what you’re getting into before you start. 5 ways coconut oil improves my health? Yes, I’ve got time for that. 200 ways coconut oil improves my health? Maybe on a Sunday. Listicles are like a friend with benefits. There are no strings attached, and no fear of commitment. It’s just wham, bam, thank you m’am, and it’s onto the next. Come to think of it, the popularity of listicles means we’re all a little promiscuous when it comes to online reading, doesn’t it?

5. Lists Are Inclusive

“I love being the last one to know something,” said no person ever. Listicles are an easy way to get in the know. People also like to think they know everything, so if they see 10 reasons why San Francisco is the best, they want to make sure they haven’t missed something. Stunning views? Check. A farmers market every day of the week? Wait… I didn’t know that one. Darn. Well, now I’m in the know!

And there you have it. The psychology of listicles and 5 reasons why you read them. And will keep reading them. But you know what? You don’t have to feel guilty about it. As with most things, moderation is key. There are many articles warning against the dangers of listicles, but so long as you’re not gluttonous about it, and break them up with meaty articles of substance, you’re good to go. Happy reading!

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