THE FIVE WAYS CLICKBAIT HACKS US
#FOUR WILL SHOCK YOU!
We’ve all done it.
We scroll to the bottom of that article and there’s that irresistible morsel of information right there. We know it’s clickbait...it’s obvious. But what if we NEVER find out what those child celebrities look like as adults?
Clickbait works on our brains because our brains are literally about 200,000 years old. They haven’t changed at all in that time, and they are still wired to thrive in a social (tribal) environment.
Clickbait has one goal: your focus and attention - resulting in clicks, shares, and likes on social media.
There’s a part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS does a few things, but it specifically drives intense focus when something is potentially valuable or threatening. * “Coming up; twelve neighborhoods may have poisoned water, details at nine.”
Humans (all of us) are made uneasy by mystery and ambiguity, and we seek to solve it wherever it exists. Clickbait uses this approach by suggesting you can only get the answer to a ‘shocking’ question by clicking the link.
We are also triggered by novelty. A few thousand years ago, if we were walking and we heard a twig snap nearby, we were instantly aware that there may be a potential for a life-threatening situation behind a bush. The genes of the humans who didn’t pay attention to breaking sticks behind bushes literally stopped existing when all the non-caring humans were eaten by tigers.
Novel stimuli causes our limbic system to jump into action. The limbic system drives our emotions, from fear and pleasure, to the drive we have for sex.
Humans act on limbic impulses rapidly, as signals from our limbic system usually save our lives. The conscious brain isn’t very involved with limbic impulses. The limbic system kind of takes over the show so we don’t die. Our brains, however, can be triggered to react with limbic impulse by stimuli that don’t pose significant value, or a threat to our safety.
Like a fish instinctively biting onto a fisherman’s bait, our brains become impulsive when the right buttons are pressed.
Clickbait uses something called affective forecasting, which is our very human trait of predicting how we will feel in the future. With clickbait, we may forecast tremendous regret over not finding something out, or a whole new life because we discovered those three things celebrities do to keep themselves looking young.
It all starts with interrupting patterns.
When someone’s patternistic behavior (scrolling and browsing) is interrupted by a stimulus, our attention is captured.
Clickbait uses four basic categories of hacking our brains:
Clickbait rarely lives up to the promises it makes, and almost never delivers the content we imagine it will. We know it, but we click.
In the future, clickbait will likely evolve as data becomes more powerful, and we’ll continue our resentful and impulsive relationship with it.
I really hope you enjoyed this article.