According to a recent study, journal articles whose titles contain “clickbait-y” characteristics are more widely shared. Analysis of more than 2000 article titles published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2013 and 2014, researcher Gwilym Lockwood from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen found that positive framing and more interesting wording leads to more online attention.
The internet is huge. There are so many pages, so many links to browse, that it’s easy to get lost in all the noise. This is why people have put a lot of thought into the design of a link title so that the website catches the attention of a potential reader. Sometimes that goes too far and the headlines get too sensational, misleading and superficial, like the following headlines: “This Dog’s Story is So Inspirational You’ll Cry. Wow.”, Or “OMG. You will never believe in. how awesome the little girl’s message is. ” This type of headline is known as clickbait.
While clickbait is more noticeable, there are certain techniques in newspaper headlines that lead to reading and sharing stories online more often. A previous study analyzed articles from The New York Times and found that two factors lead to increased sharing: how positive an article was and how emotionally exciting an article was.
In a recent article, Gwilym Lockwood investigated whether the same techniques also work for scientific papers. This can be measured by looking at the Altmetric Attention Score, which shows the attention paid to an article online by tracking tweets, Facebook posts, mentions of news articles, etc.
More than 2000 titles of articles published in a scientific journal called Frontiers in Psychology in 2013 and 2014 were coded for positive framing (e.g. using ‘smoking causes cancer’, rather than ‘the link between smoking and cancer’) and arousal wording (e.g., referring to to “play” rather than “mathematical decision-making”).
As it turned out, articles with positive framing and phrasing excitement in their titles received higher Altmetric scores, meaning they were shared more widely online. In contrast, having puns in the titles actually leads to lower Altmetric Attention Scores, while having a question in the title doesn’t make any difference. This is independent of the length of the title or the interest of the topic.
This shows that “clickbait-y” techniques can work for science as well, and that scientists could use them to adjust the titles of their articles so that their research is shared more widely. Although, hopefully, that won’t lead to article titles like “38 Japanese ideophones the Dutch have gone mad about” or “What this researcher found out about human-avatar interactions will blow your mind.”
Facebook gives hook to ‘clickbait’ headlines
Lockwood, G. Academic clickbait: Articles with positively framed titles, interesting wording, and no puns gain more attention online. The Winnower 3: e146723.36330 (2016) DOI: 10.15200 / winn.146723.36330
Provided by the company Max Planck
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