Studies Confirm People Love Listicles! Here's Why I Do Too


No matter how much food for thought you consume, science says your brain enjoys this snack.
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Out on the interwebs content is king.

It’s a wonderland of written words.

I love the selection, the depth, and breadth of pieces available - but no matter how much food for thought I come across, I always find myself nibbling.

Logging on is like going to the literary pantry and sometimes you just want a snack, something fast and tasty, a little nibble, to keep you going.

That’s when you reach for the snickers bar of articles, the listicle.

If that sounds familiar, you're not alone.

Research has found that people like to categorize information into "chunks."

Since people naturally detect patterns in their environment all the time, it makes learning easier.

For example, it's easier to remember directions such as "two left, one right, two left" than randomly trying to remember where to go when driving.

Studies have shown that people's brains actually work differently when detecting a pattern and that our reward centers are activated when we realize we see a pattern.

So our brains are actually programmed to enjoy listicles.

And they’re not all as trite and hollow as you might think.

Listicles can be meaningful and helpful if the information is en pointe.

A really good listicle can be a game-changer and you know it.

You might not want to admit it, but I bet you can’t resist them. If you’re a writer, I bet you secretly love creating them.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I love listicles as a reader and a writer:

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1. They’re short.

No commitment is required.

You’re in, and you’re out.

Perfect when you don’t have the time or mental energy to get stuck into an in-depth 15-minute piece but you still want to zone out with a little reading.

They’re a great mental barrier for public transit and waiting rooms, or as a quick distraction when you’re avoiding getting down to work.

They give maximum closure in minimum time.

2. They’re helpful.

Listicles are self-helpy in nature, a great vehicle for instant insight.

People who write them know they have to offer something useful because they’re bordering dangerously on clickbait.

A well-written listicle delivers concentrated lessons in the most efficient way possible, making them clear, concise, and easy to digest.

A surprisingly productive way to enjoy yourself.
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3. They’re entertaining.

Sometimes you just want a little fluff to zone out with — something light.

When reading on Medium is an escape, that’s how you want it to feel.

Many listicles are just funny little lists of stuff people know and we all want to know what other people know. We want to peek inside each other’s lives and minds.

That’s why reality tv is so popular.

A listicle is a numbered reality show that doesn’t involve screaming, multiple children, or medical issues.


4. They challenge you to edit better.

If you're writing one, it keeps you on your toes.

When you’re keeping it short and tight you need to edit the crap out of things.

Practicing editing is good in any context.

5. They force you to think about things in a more dense way.

When writing a long-form piece you can milk the crap out of an idea.

You've got to pinpoint the critical matter in a listicle and distill it down to its most practical application.

It forces you to wrap your brain around a topic, squeeze out the essence, make your case clear, and deliver it in an encouraging way.

Writing listicles keeps your mind in shape by doing those mental gymnastics.
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I know you like long serious pieces.

Pieces with substance and style.

I know you're deep and thoughtful and intelligent.

But there’s no shame in admitting you love listicles as a reader or a writer.

Everyone has a guilty pleasure.

Everyone likes a sweet treat.

Sometimes you just want to unwind with content you don’t have to overthink.

That's where the listicle comes in.

I could probably cite some more reasons, but I guess I'll just end it here since this is my top five.

Thanks for reading!

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Musician, writer, toddler wrangler. Author of "How To Be Wise AF" guided journal available on Amazon as well as "The Automatic Parent" due out in Feb. 2022.


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