1. Leverage the “Curiosity Gap”
People experience curiosity in two ways: perceptually and epistemically.
Perceptual curiosity is the desire to grasp something strange or puzzling, such as an optical illusion or magic trick. Epistemic curiosity is, put simply the inclination to learn something fresh, to obtain new knowledge. Of these sensations, the latter is more pleasant.
“Our brain and our mind assigns value to this [new] knowledge,” explains Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and curiosity researcher, “so this is usually experienced as a pleasurable thing, with an anticipation of reward in the form of what we learn.”
This moment of satisfaction and delight is what makes these “curiosity gap” headlines so captivating and ever-present: used across the internet, particularly in social media marketing.
Headlines that utilise the curiosity gap are specific enough to bond with the reader, but not so specific that they affect the reader’s epistemic curiosity — their desire to learn something new and get that pleasure rush.
If the reader wants that rush, then they’ll have to devote their attention.
2. Apply the “Scarcity Principle”
People are hardwired to prize things and experiences that they view to be rare — or at least in short supply. Psychologists and economists refer to this tendency as the scarcity principle.
It’s an evolutionary trait, established to ensure that we get what we need. Millenia ago, early humans leaned on it for survival. Today, copywriters capture those same gotta-have-it feelings by employing words and expressions like:
“Don’t miss out!”
“Offer ends soon!”
“While stocks last!”
The scarcity principle is also tied to our self-esteem. Obtaining something exclusive or in demand makes us feel powerful.
3. Use Numbers
Want to stop scanners in their tracks? Use a number in your headline.
Whether your headline appears in a newsletter, a popup, or a YouTube banner, a number will make it stand out.
Numbers work this way because words and images make up most of the content we see each day. Webpages, magazines, billboards, emails: They’re all dominated by words and images.
So when our eyes spot a number, it sticks out. It pops, focusing our attention. Simple, but effective.
Numbers also signify finality, a definitive beginning and end, which is comforting to readers.