Conference Education List Sessions Are Deliciously Temptatious

2014.02.06_065.365, just you and me cupcake

“37 Mobile Apps In Less Than 60 Minutes!”

Tina Brown’s “12 Tips For Engaging Events.” “15 Industry Trends You Need To Know.”

Lists! We love them! We are drawn to them. We fancy them.

The Lure Of The List

Conference session titles that contain a numbered list have become ubiquitous ways to attract a crowd and pack content.

Why are we so attracted to lists? Why do conference session titles and descriptions that feature lists lure our brains like a moth to a flame?

1. It’s A Natural Biological Attraction

Anytime our brains can effortlessly acquire data without thinking or work, we are drawn to it. It doesn’t mean that we will recall or be able to apply that data. But we believe that if we read it or hear it we have it. We are just being biological creatures.

2. It Draws Our Attention

Lists have a way of creating mental white space around content that filters out all the noise. In a conference full of talking heads spouting tons of information, a list stands out among all the others.

3. It Entices Us With Creative And Ambiguous Information

Our brains are attracted to creative and uninformative type headlines and education sessions. It sounds ironic but a 2009 study found that we prefer headlines that are intriguing and ambivalent. Those numbered list headlines lure us just enough to an education session that we are willing to take a chance that we’ll come across something relevant or exciting. And we are satisfied as long as we get just one takeaway.

4. It Is A Decoy To Our Sweet Spot

Our brains like to categorize and simplify things when possible. When we create a numbered or bullet list to shop for groceries, it helps us organize our thoughts. We process our thoughts spatially and chunk the information. Education sessions that provide lists hit our attentional sweet spot.

5. It Feels Better

Neuroscientist Walter Kintsch identified that we can process information easier when it’s in a list then clustered with other information like a long speech. It just simply feels better.

6. It Reduces Conscious Work

The more information and options we have, the worse we feel! It’s the paradox of choice that psychologists Claude Messner and Michaela Wänke researched in 2011. When we can reduce the amount of conscious work we that we have to do in order to process something we will! Then the faster we decide on something, and the happier we become.

Hat Tips to Maria Konnikova, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes and “A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love Lists.” And Fast Company’s Drake Baer “4 Science-Backed Reasons Our Brains Love Lists.”

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When providing a numbered list in an education session, what is the appropriate number of items to share and why? What is the negative side of offering a list of points in an education session?

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  1. […] sessions that provide a list of tips and tricks does not lead to authentic learning. It leads to the illusion of […]

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