The most valuable commodity these days, other than [insert the 2019 equivalent of avocado here], is your attention. And in today’s tech-dominated era, there are plenty of players out there competing for it.

You’d think that 2013-2015’s prime listicle era would have rendered clickbait useless, but here we are at the end of the decade, and we’re still reading articles like “These Yearbook Quotes Prove Seniors Just Do Not Care.” (OK, well, I’m reading it. Just had to know how sassy those yearbook quotes were.)

Why does clickbait work?

Think about the last time you fell for clickbait. Odds are, you knew it was clickbait even as you clicked on it, and you knew it was probably content of dubious quality, but you clicked on it anyway. Why does clickbait work? And why does it continue to work?

Psychology Today‘s Mike Brooks, Ph.D., provides a comforting response: There are several very human reasons. But for the sake of time, we’ll touch on the two biggest.

Survival of the clickiest

It always goes back to the caveman days, doesn’t it? In this case, says Brooks, “we humans are drawn to seek out information in our world because it has survival value. Clickbait is the promise that unbelievable, provocative, or shocking information will be revealed if we just click that link.”

It’s all about the dopamine, baby.

The “Vegas Effect”

This almost definitely isn’t what you think it is. The Vegas Effect, says Brooks, is a “variable ratio reinforcement schedule,” which is also involved in gambling (Think: slot machines): “When we are put in a state of anticipation (i.e., I wonder what this might be? I wonder what will happen this time?), dopamine is released, which incentives our seeking behavior.”

So go ahead, keep on clicking. It’s only human nature.

And remember, as Pareekshit Ravi said in his senior quote, “The ‘s’ is silent.”



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