When you get down to the very basics of brain function, there are some clues to creating successful content. The term “discrimination” has both positive and negative connotations, but in fact the process of discriminating is the most elemental neurological responsibility.

The brain’s cortex evolved from the back to front, and the bulk of the discriminatory activity occurs way in the back, in the occipital lobe. That area is also responsible for vision. It’s a primal part of the brain, and one of the earliest to form.

You may think that discrimination is bad. In our society, we fight discrimination without accepting the underlying concept. We get all hot under the collar when the topic of profiling comes up, but it’s how the brain works. The capacity for distinguishing statistical realities is not discriminatory, but adaptive.

Human brains divide the world to conquer it. All of these activities occur within milliseconds. Is it dangerous or safe? Is it dark or light? From these minuscule impressions, an entire narrative is formed, and it happens pretty much on an unconscious level. It’s what we do with the information once we have it that counts.

That discriminatory activity plays quite an important role in content consumption. With the ever-increasing flood of data coming our way, distinguishing between what’s important and what’s not becomes a well-honed neurological skill.

Our brains crave speed. The faster we can create a discrimination, the quicker we can decide if an item is to be consumed or discarded. If we attempt to refrain from discrimination we wind up with some pretty faulty reasoning.

This very basic brain function explains why content composed of lists, i.e., top ten, or 30 things, or five tips, is so compelling. As content creators, we have stumbled upon a method of making that discriminatory task more efficient. We skim content, make a quick (and I am talking under 100 milliseconds) judgment as to whether it’s useful, and then decide whether to stick or slide.

It’s also interesting to note that discrimination activity in the brain takes place primarily in the lobe that also processes visual stimuli, explaining the popularity of image rich content.

We are a nation of skimmers. And that’s not only not a problem, but it makes complete sense. Embrace your inner skimmer and design your content to appeal to the fine art of discrimination.