Article titles have caught my attention. The sheer volume of titles with numbers in them has been particularly fascinating. Bloggers and content creators seem to be the most prolific users of this titling technique:

Simply visit your Twitter feed – you won’t be lacking for more examples!

There must be some reason numbers in titles are so compelling, right? Certainly, this trend would not continue if there were nothing behind the concept. Turns out, there is quite a bit of scientific support for this information chunking technique.

With a quick phone call to Dr. Robin McClure who knows a whole bunch about how the brain processes information and some additional research into The Chunking Principle, an Information Mapping technique, here’s what I’ve learned.

Chunking helps the brain to avoid an overload of information by setting the optimal size limit for a unit of information.

  • Your mind actually automatically groups items to facilitate memory.
  • Research suggests that people can be process and remember no more than 7+/-2 pieces of information at one time.
  • If the author has more information to convey than 7+/-2, related items should be identified so that categories can be determined.

By utilizing The Chunking Principle, authors help the reader take in and absorb information more efficiently and retain information longer. The more familiar an individual is with the information, process, or task you are trying to convey, the more flexible you can be with increasing the chunking limit. If the information is expected to be unfamiliar, or is complex, decrease the number of chunks presented.

The key with presenting any content is to really know your audience so that the information you are trying to share can be easily processed and understood!

Are you more or less likely to read an article with a number in the title? Please post your thoughts here.