8 successful headlines—and the psychology behind them

Have you ever wondered why how-to or numbered-list headlines get so many clicks? Here’s your answer.

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I found plenty of data about which words are in the most-shared headlines, how long headlines should be, and more.

What was especially interesting were the psychology behind some well-known headline formulas and what makes them so clickable. Here’s an overview of eight winning headline formulas and the psychology behind them:

1. Surprise

Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” list surprise as one of the six principles of sticky ideas. According to their research, presenting something unexpected—breaking a pattern—will help you capture attention.

This works in two parts: Surprise captures our interest and holds it.

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