By Hadia Chaudhry
Clickbait runs rampant online, seeping into video titles and news headlines. It is unavoidable no matter where your online endeavors take you. However, every time we encounter clickbait, we often succumb to our curiosity and click.
Clickbait headlines and titles are now becoming popular among news editors, bloggers, and media users. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, clickbait is “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.” Clickbait began as a tactic for websites that receive revenue through clicks on their links.
Take videos on YouTube as an example. In recent years, numerous videos have been posted with eye-catching and curiosity-inducing titles such as “Kylie Jenner gets owned by an Egg LOL instagram most liked EVER EPIC.” Yes, this is a real title of a video posted by Youtuber PewDiePie. Those unfamiliar with the World Record Egg and its battle to beat Kylie Jenner’s post as the most liked photo on Instagram will be tempted to click on the video because they are curious about the situation.
Curiosity is a trait that humans have developed over the course of their existence, and it drives us to investigate even the most bizarre situations. According to Harvard psychologists Vivian Hemmelder and Tommy Blanchard, the act of being curious is a survival trait helping us to seek information that may aid in the survival of a species, making the moment when information is received rewarding. It is also theorized that there exists a gap between what people know and want to know, known as the information gap theory, which was developed by psychologist George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University. Curiosity fills the gap because it urges people to investigate and find content capable of quelling curious tendencies. Therefore, a headline or video title is essentially a source of pleasure for readers to fill in gaps of intel.
Psychologist Daniel Berlyn identified four types of curiosity: epistemic curiosity (desire for information and knowledge), perceptual curiosity (attention to novel objects in their immediate environment), specific curiosity (desire for a particular piece of knowledge), and diversive curiosity (stimulation seeking to escape boredom). Clickbait hits the target for all four of Berlyn’s types of curiosities, as it simultaneously fulfills the desire for information, catches one’s attention, and stimulates the brain to view or read the topic of the clickbait to escape boredom.
As tired as we may be of seeing clickbait, its presence on the internet will not decrease because its ability to catch a browser’s attention has been shown to work. For money, media platforms will continue the pattern of employing eye-catching headlines for a simple article or video.
Curiosity will remain embedded in humanity, and we will thus continue to be reeled in by peculiar titles. To all internet and media users, continue to expect more clickbait coming your way because it has proven to lure in viewers and readers by catering to human cognition and curious habits.