11 Reasons Why We Like Top Ten Lists

(In no order of importance)

| January/February 2001 Issue

11. Anality. We classify what does and does not belong on the list, then put what does belong there in proper order, everything in its place. There is pleasure in this activity.

10. Mastery. We get to make value judgments.

9. Community. There is usually collective authorship in making a list, even if it’s credited to just one person. And the chief motive in doing it is to share our enthusiasms with others.

8. Judgment. When we’re reading (not making) the lists, we find they are never right. Part of the appeal is realizing what you would have come up with.

7. Evolution. Are lists evidence of the evolution of narrative structure into the "superior" language of the list?

6. Simplification. North American humans like to have information in simplified, easily digestible formats.

5. Convenience. Ten is a good happy number.

4. Transparency. The number 10 (or its "equivalent" as "base") can be found in every counting system on earth.

3. Ease. Ten means many, but not too many.

2. Security. It comforts us to know where things fit in the pecking order.

1. Pleasure. The phrase "Top Ten," atop our other reasons, makes nice alliteration.

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