Interesting copy helps readers learn
In the early 19th century, German philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart said that interest leads to understanding, learning and memory — and even inspires readers to learn more.
For nearly 200 years, researchers, philosophers and communicators have seen the link between interest and learning.
One of those researchers is Suzanne Hidi, associate member at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s Centre for Applied Cognitive Science. In “Interest and Its Contribution as a Mental Resource for Learning,” she presents a research review on how interest helps people learn.
Interesting copy, according to Hidi’s review of the literature:
- Encourages reading and improves comprehension (Hidi & Baird, 1986)
- Increases understanding (Bernstein, 1955)
- Aids in learning (Hidi & Baird, 1986; Shirey and Reynolds, 1988)
- Helps people remember the information (Hidi & Baird, 1988)
- Enables readers to come up with fuller, better and more creative responses (Bernstein, 1955)
“Interesting copy,” the researchers found, is:
- Concrete. It shows instead of tells, turns ideas into things and is filled with action and images.
- Emotional. It includes human interest, narrative action and “life themes” readers can identify with.
- Novel. It’s surprising or unexpected.
Here, Hidi says, are some of the interesting sentences that have been used in studies:
- “The huge gorilla smashed the bus with its fist.” (Anderson, 1982)
- “When a Click Beetle is on its back, it flips itself into the air and lands right side up while it makes a clicking noise.” (Garner et al., 1989)
- “When a fly moves its wings about 200 times in a second, you hear a buzzing sound.” (Garner et al., 1989)
- “No advertising is allowed on Swedish television, and there are no commercial stations.” (Hidi & Baird, 1983)
- “Adult wolves carry food home in their stomachs and bring it up again or regurgitate it for the young cubs to eat — the wolf version of canned baby food.” (Hidi & Baird, 1983)
- “Thomas Edison became the most famous inventor of all time even though he left school when he was only 6 years old.” (Hidi & Baird, 1988)
- “A canary can also bluff by playing dead. A frightened canary may go limp in someone’s hand.” (Hidi & Baird, 1983)
- “The Battle of Trafalgar was the greatest naval victory in British history, and it was the war for Great Britain.” (Wade & Adams, 1990)
- “[Lady Emma Hamilton] fell in love with the battered, one-eyed, one-armed naval hero and became his mistress.” (Wade & Adams, 1990)
Just make sure your creative material helps you make your key point. Otherwise it could distract readers from your message.