ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Science Behind Why We Love Lists

Updated on October 16, 2016

Lists are Convenient

People Love Lists

If you are a writer and you don't know that the list is the most popular writing format among readers, you must have been living under a rock! We all love lists. List are concise, they are to the point, they attract your attention and they inform. People even write lists ABOUT lists - that is just how much we love them.

Numbered, bullet pointed, or marked with dashes, lists—a venerable media format—have become one of the most ubiquitous ways to package content on the internet. But did you know that there is scientific evidence as to why we love lists so much?

A List of Reasons Lists are Popular

  • They are concise
  • Readers know what they are in for
  • Lists are familiar
  • Lists are simple
  • They promise instant knowledge
  • Lists can be edited in a flash
  • Lists allow us to keep track of things
  • Lists are quick
  • They look appealing

The Numbers Behind Lists

People may love lists, but there are certain lists that draw our attention more than others. The infamous "Top Ten" lists are scientifically proven to be more attractive to readers than a list featuring a different number of points. This is because human beings naturally partition the world into round numbers.

Life is just simpler when we tell someone we will be there by 5:00 p.m., instead of saying we will be there by 5:02 p.m. Asking your employees to come up with 10 to 15 ideas is just more natural than asking them to come up with 7-13 ideas. We live in a chaotic world and we are constantly hunting for anything to help us simplify our lives. Something both lists and rounded numbers do.

Nowhere is this tendency toward round numbers more prevalent than on lists, and nowhere are lists more prevalent than on the Internet. It is human instinct for us to round things to five and ten. It's just easier.

"The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists." – H. Allen Smith, American Journalist

Lists Appeal to the Left Side of Our Brain

Left Brain versus Right Brain

Recognizing faces
Critical thinking
Expressing emotions
Reading emotions

The functions of the left brain versus the function of the right brain.

So Why DO We Love Lists?

Science can explain why lists are so attractive to us. Lists appeal to the left side of our brain - the portion of the brain that is analytical, logical and objective. The left side of our brain helps us understand things, learn knew information and figure things out. The right side of our brain is known as our "creative" side, and manages our intuition and is more irrational and illogical than the left side of the brain.

While the right side of our brain is better at looking at something as a whole, the left side of our brain is analytical, and enjoys breaking things down into parts in order to get a better understanding.

Not only do lits appeal to the left side of our brain, they also appeal to our innate desire to categorize things. We categorize everything in our life - it is our primal way of understanding things we learn every day. Lists restore order in a world where we are inundated with far too much information at one time. This type of organization facilitates immediate understanding and allows us to easily recall facts.

Lists appeal to all of the things that make the left brain go nuts - logic, order, sequence, rhyme and reason.

Lists Attract the Attention of Readers

Survey for Writers

Do you utilize lists when you write?

See results

Why Writers Should Utilize Lists

Writers can utilize lists to increase traffic and make their content look more attractive to their audience. Lists can be a great way to expand your audience, highlight your main points and simplify complex information.

In what ways do writers benefit from writing lists?

  • They allow the reader to "scan" their content for main ideas
  • They appeal to the readers logical brain
  • They are easy to read
  • They are easy to comprehend
  • They don't cause the brain to go into overdrive due to information overload

Scienctific evidence proves that lists are effective ways of communicating ideas and increasing traffic to your content. If you like to write, and you want people to read what you write, start making lists.

Tips for Writing Lists

Here are some tips for writing lists that attract readers, keep their attention and encourage readers to share your content:

  • Introduce each list
  • Write the list in a cohesive order
  • Keep each item short and to the point
  • Utilize bold and italics only when necessary
  • Don't include irrelevant information
  • Don't ramble on and on

By implementing lists in your writing, you will help your reader comprehend your message more effectively and in a more efficient manner.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)