The Secret Science Behind the Art of Clickbait


What drives online readers to quickly click on an article? It’s called clickbait, which is content on the Web that doesn’t fulfill its headline’s promise. Clickbait has infiltrated the Internet and has led to great online frustration. But rather than blame yourself for falling for this digital manipulation, realize that science is the culprit behind clickbait. Numerous studies have found that behavioral science plays a part—the role of emotion in our daily decisions and a simplicity-seeking brain cause us to click. shared more on how the way you think can make you click without thinking.

The Magic Potion for Emotion
Clickbait isn’t all in your head. Digital writers and editors craft compelling headlines that are made to capture your attention. These headlines play on emotions like anger, fear, and excitement. And even though you may sense this manipulation, it’s simply irresistible and causes you to click. According to research, this is mainly attributed to emotion arousal and how it affects the decision-making process. When strong emotions are aroused, people tend to respond. With clickbait articles, that response is a click.

The Lure of Lists
Psychologists say that humans are drawn to lists because they help us simplify complex concepts. That’s why so many clickbait articles include numbers that promise of a list for some solution. The main reasons that lists are so effective include:

  • Lists organize information, which your overworked brain appreciates.
  • They typically feature numbers, which stand out when you’re scanning or scrolling through a long stream of headlines.
  • These numbers let you know the general length of the article to help you anticipate how much time and attention it will involve.
  • Lists reduce choice and eliminate a lengthy thought process.

The Anticipation of Reward
Clickbait causes an interesting reaction in your brain. Even if you think that article may be clickbait, some part of you also believes that there’s a chance that it’s actually informative. This anticipation of reward causes your brain to produce a feel-good neurotransmitter called dopamine. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as intermittent reinforcement, which drives you to act for the chance that it will be worth it in the end. While not all clickbait plays on your dopamine levels, clickbait’s effect on emotional arousal certainly makes dopamine production a direct factor.

As long as clickbait continues to penetrate the Web, people will continue to click on it. Now that you know what causes you to click, you’ll be able to think twice before clicking without a second thought.

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