Top 5 reasons why lists are so popular

December 11, 2012  


Randy Roberts

Randy Roberts
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As another year comes to a close, Purdue University pop culture historian explains why there is so much interest in perennial countdowns and lists.

"It's a phenomenon, especially as we wrap up each year, that goes back for decades," says Randy Roberts, a distinguished professor of history. "Like any tradition, making lists and ranking aspects of our lives is culturally significant."

Roberts says the Top 5 reasons are:

5. Lists are fun. Whether it's news, religion or learning, people expect to be entertained.

4. Lists fill empty news holes. The proliferation of the news cycle has created an endless demand for news content. Lists can help bring new life to the monotony of the 24-hour news cycle.

3. They help organize history. Every detail or moment can't be remembered, but lists provide a snapshot.

2. Lists build community by providing something for people to discuss.

1. Our desire to bring order to a chaotic world. Most lists are arbitrary, but they help make sense of all the information that inundates us.

"While these lists seem like mindless entertainment, it is human nature to create order from our past," Roberts says.

Roberts, who focuses on American and sports history, is the author of more than 30 books and has made more than 50 appearances on television documentaries and films in the past 20 years for the History Channel, ESPN Classic, HBO, BBC, PBS, E!TV and on the ABC, CBS and NBC networks.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Randy Roberts, rroberts@purdue.edu

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