Here’s How a Good Idea Goes to Crap
Todd Brison

I’ve been reading too much about those self-help tips and tricks (7 tips that will change your life…), I’ve read thousands upon thousands of those. And I wonder: how could those tips and tricks be written better, to actually change the reader’s life, rather than being a clickbait.

As a cognitive scientist, I think bloggers should exploit the “excited neurons” concept, here’s a brief explanation:

If I’ll ask you to list me all the books you’ve ever read, you will list 5, 10 maybe 15, but then I’ll ask you “What about 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?”, you’ll respond “Oh right, I forgot about that one!”, but you’re wrong, you did not actually ‘forget’, otherwise, you wouldn’t recognize the name of the book now would you, so what happened there?

In short, the way the brain works is by exciting neurons, let’s reverse engineer the previous situation, when I asked you to list all the books you’ve ever read, your brain processed the words “books, I, read” those 3 concepts excited some neurons which were associated with those concepts, the neurons who got excited the most store the books that you’re going to list. The “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” neuron, (probably)also got a little excited, but not as much as the others, so your brain ignored it.

Now, when I asked you “What about 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?”, your brain processed those words and guess which neuron got excited the most? you guessed right, the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” got excited the most, however, the neurons which represent the concepts “habits”, “people” and “7”, also got excited but not as much as the former one so they’ve been ignored. And that’s when you responded “Oh right, I forgot about that one!”

How this understanding can help with writing tips and tricks? I suggest writing them as a specific scenario that the reader is familiar with, and suggest what to do in such a scenario instead of what the reader would usually do.

For example — “Whenever you finish drinking a cup of coffee, instead of leaving it dirty, go ahead and clean it immediately”. If you wrote it correctly, the reader will “forget” this tip approximately 10 seconds after reading it. However, next time the reader will finish drinking coffee the neurons associated with this tip will fire and make the reader act.

Feel free to use my comment to write an article, I didn’t expect it to be so long, but I have no time to shorten, have a good day.

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