The Psychology of Listicles

The Psychology of Listicles

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Bohn, R., & Short, J. (2012). Measuring consumer information. Int J Comm,6, 980-1000.

Oppenheimer, D. M. (2008). The secret life of fluency. Trends in cognitive sciences, 12(6), 237-241.

Reber, R., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Effects of perceptual fluency on judgments of truth. Consciousness and cognition, 8(3), 338-342.

Winkielman, P., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2001). Mind at ease puts a smile on the face: psychophysiological evidence that processing facilitation elicits positive affect. Journal of personality and social psychology, 81(6), 989.

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December 16, 2015 / 20 Comments / by / in
  • You make a really good point about remembering what we do from listicles. The second you said that I thought of something like 3 listicles I've read in the past…forever

    New subber, great content 🙂

  • Curiously, my desire to learn has resulted in enough YouTube subscriptions to bury me, only cementing the fact that learning too much is perhaps equally futile as listicles.

  • 2:19 it looks like shes eating something

  • You could say the same with channels like this, vsauce, scishow, minute physics…etc. In one ear and out the other, unless you apply the knowledge.

  • I'm sorry girl but graphic novel are the graphic novel of the internet.

  • just when you thought "jif" was bad enough

  • Top 10, top 10 youtube channels…Top 69 pornstars of 2016…The 13 sexiest zodiac signs.

  • WTH is a zoopadoopa?

  • I am a huge fan of listicles

  • I agree most of the Buzzfeed-type bubblegum lists are forgettable but I've learned a heck of a lot from several Cracked articles

  • Gifs.

  • Great topic. Thanks so much for the video.

    Your hypothesis seems valid in some ways, but I'm left feeling unsatisfied with the explanation because it didn't discuss the effect of including numerals in the headline. The suggestion that we like lists because they promise a concise and easily digestible piece of information falls flat for examples like "159 Disney Quotes For When You Need An Instagram Caption". In addition, understanding the promise and value of concise information seems to require a fair bit of cognitive effort, but most recent research indicates that subconscious motivators are generally much more important in helping us make decisions, especially the sort of half-conscious decisions like clicking on content than interests us.

    For example, consider these two articles:

    "159 Disney Quotes For When You Need An Instagram Caption"
    "Disney Quotes For When You Need An Instagram Caption"

    Imagine the only thing different is the 3 digits at the start of the headline, the article would be identical. I would expect if you were able to test it, you would find that the articles that included the number in the headline is read and enjoyed much more than the one lacking numerals in the headline. This listicle, "5 Reasons Numbers In Headlines Work", seems to report a 25% traffic increase on the title with numbers.

    I wonder if the presence of the numeral appeals to the subconscious, old-brain idea of self-benefit, looking out for "me". We all like to feel that we make good, well-informed decisions. The presence of numerals makes us subconsciously feel we can know this topic completely, something you touched on a bit but didn't quite connect to numerals. I feel like there's more to understand there, but not sure what exactly.

  • Vanessa, you seem to emphasize the format of listicles causing poor retention and learning.

    What about content? And how listicles are low effort collection of facts?

    I believe learning is understanding concepts, and facts are concrete instances to reinforce a particular concept/abstraction.

    I would argue most listicles are facts without a unifying lesson.

  • Neuroscience student and budding writer, love the show. Do you have a link for your commentary on the Idea Channel video about listicles about macquaque monkeys anticipating information as a reward?

  • He has a strange way of pronouncing "Gifs". 😀

  • Yeah they suck. They're pretty annoying. I forget them when I read them.

  • Gife? Really?

  • how do you call test articles?

  • Gonna make a list of how wonderful this chick is.

  • i remember lots of lists of hacks.
    >>>I dislike many but
    i do like the formatting.

    Because its not set
    >Whole story
    1, 2, 3 Items

    its mix match and magic.

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