Almost any question you type in to a search engine today, will provide you with answers in the form of lists as to what’s the most popular, what’s the cheapest, and what’s the most effective of anything under the sun. Presenting information in a way that’s easy and quick to process and digest, while still giving us the answers or choices we’re looking for, is the norm nowadays, and it seems we’re alright with that! But why?
So it turns out that there are a number of reasons why we love ifave rankings quite as much as we do:
- We’re familiar and au fait with the layout
Whatever list you’re given when entering your question into a search engine today – be it the top ten of something or the best 100 of something else – you’re familiar and comfortable with the way the information is being presented to you, and thus are able to scroll down and read with ease.
In something known to psychologists as ‘schemata,’ the mental map we’ve built up from past experiences allows us to know what’s coming next when we see information laid out in a certain way, and this predictability means we can process the information with greater ease.
As humans, many of us are genetically programmed to have a ‘fear of missing out,’ and this can also be applied to rankings and lists on the internet. When we see a list of the top ten of something, the need to click on the link is irresistible, and if you don’t click on it, you might not have something that was well within your grasp. And, as psychologists have shown us over the years, loss aversion, or the feeling of having lost something we’ve already got, makes it even harder for us not to click on the link.
- Rankings aren’t as arduous for our brains
Reading things online is often about so much more than simply reading; we’re often asked to click on links, plus we have the need to move the mouse around the screen, and get rid of pop-ups as and when required; in short, we get a bit disoriented. When reading a list, however, we might just be able to shake that vague sense of disorientation, and better focus on the information on the screen.
- We can scan lists easily
Information presented in the form of a list is much easier for us to quickly scan and get the details we need, especially if we’re reading a list of instructions, for example. We can skip to the part of the list we want to read about, or read the whole list in a lot less time than if the information were displayed in regular article form.
- Lists feel more definitive
With information packaged up neatly in list form, it can make us feel that what we’re reading is the definitive answer; the matter is settled, and any feelings of uncertainty or doubt are eliminated. Ranking everything also gives us a sense of control, which is also great for our overall sense of wellbeing, even if we’re only reading about the top 10 movies of 2022!
Lists and rankings aren’t just loved by readers, but are favored by journalists and other writers, too. Quicker to compose and yet just as informative, lists follow a simple, logical structure and can be created in half the time of a full length article.