Study: 7 reasons lists work as clickbait (number 3 will literally stop your heart and start it again)

A new study by the psychology department at the University of New Brunswick reveals that since 2012, the most-clicked links on the web are articles written in list form. Department head Dr. Brenda Srink explained the science behind the groundbreaking revelation to The Manatee‘s star reporter.


  •  Human beings are lazy creatures that naturally gravitate toward efficient, easy ways of doing things. When something is in list form, the reader can skim through, reading the title of each point without reading the explanations.

  • We are guaranteed that the article will be short and concise. Those brave enough to read the explanation behind each point know they don’t have to commit to a tedious 3-minute reading session. The article has an expiry date, and item number 7 is pleasantly visible on the horizon.

  •  The geometric shape of lists stimulates neural pathways in your brain that in turn stimulate bloodflow. Seeing a list actually improves heart health: The sudden rush of blood stops your heart momentarily, and once engorged, it begins pumping again with renewed vigour. Dr. Srink compares it to holding your breath while sprinting short distances: “For decades, Olympic athletes have been holding their breath during the sprint events, leading to better results and a better post-run rush when they start breathing again. This translates well to the daily grind where you’re hunched over a computer desk all day and need to stay awake.” Experts advise looking at lists at least 3 times a day for optimal heart health.

  •  Lists safely appeal to literally everyone. The study elaborates that readers feel secure in the knowledge that people love lists so much because they are mostly light-hearted. They won’t risk prompting an arduous Facebook debate about the “article” where their online friends earnestly argue moot points, masking their utter hatred for each other through civil and polite discourse.


  •  From the moment of our birth, we have been bombarded with lists. Fast food lanes, grocery lists, to-do lists, homework assignments, agendas — the list goes on and on. Dr. Srink said that lists are already such an integral part of our daily lives, that in a strange twist of biological instincts we feel almost sexually attracted to them. Lists are a natural progression and evolution of the way information is presented. Dr. Srink’s team estimates that by 2020, people will be speaking in list form in our ever-increasing quest to communicate efficiently and quickly.


  •  Picking a specific point in the title and promising the reader an extreme reaction will pique their curiosity. Dr. Srink said the key is to be intentionally vague about the why, and specific about the what: “A good example is saying something like ‘number 5 will have you in tears,’ or ‘her reaction will make you melt.’ People will click the link, if only to see whether what you promised is true. Even if it isn’t, the website successfully trapped a new reader.”

  •   Lists with points that are multiples of 7 are by far the most attractive. According to the study, we subconsciously associate the number 7 with luck and prosperity. This is why we commonly see articles such as “7 flavours of coffee that should only exist in Harry Potter’s universe” and “21 nostalgic ’90s photos that will actually make you cry.” Sites like Buzzfeed, Thoughtcatalog, Upworthy, Huffington Post, and ViralNova are notorious for using multiples of 7 and winning lotteries and horse races.

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