People are quick to exult the virtues of lists. I’ve written about them from time to time myself. Websites like Buzzfeed, Forbes and Business Insider have also embraced the list, but more in the form of what is now popularly known as the ‘listicle’ (part list, part article). And why not? It seems that there is a universal, neurological love for the list:
- Lists appeal to our neurological tendency to organize things. We like order over chaos.
- They help with our memory. Because we process information spatially, it’s easier for us to remember items on a list than in paragraph form. Even when we’re apart from the information – say in an exam, or leaving your grocery list at home – we’re more likely to recall the information because you can visualise where the information is on the page.
- Lists make us feel good. According to psychologist Timothy Pychyl, half of us write something on a list after we’ve completed it just to feel a rush when we cross it off (List me on this list!). We list for the thrill of it!
- We’re snacking. We are checking the news more often but for shorter amounts of time. Lists allow us to break down large amounts of information into bite size pieces that are easy to digest.
- The more we know about something, the greater the chance we will commit to it. Lists, and especially listicles, with their promise of an end, allow us to quickly work through information. And we love the rush of knowing we’re able to accomplish something.