Why use Calls-to-Action (CTA)? It’s in Our DNA to Click Them

Why use Calls-to-Action (CTA)? It's in Our DNA to Click Them
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How many marketing approaches can root their success in psychology? Calls-to-Action certainly can.

As humans, we’re psychologically wired to click on Calls-to-Action (CTA). What more of a convincing reason can we give you to use them? Your website visitors will have to ignore their brain’s first response in order to not click your CTA.

Perceptual Set Theory

The psychology of the CTA was discovered long before the days of internet. Perceptual set theory is a notion defined by F.H. Allport in 1955 as:

‘A perceptual bias or predisposition or readiness to perceive particular features of a stimulus.’

In other words, the brain has a tendency to consider some aspects of what is presented to it, and ignore others. Which are considered and which are ignored is determined by the following factors:

• Expectations
• Emotion
• Motivation
• Culture

If this isn’t sounding very clear to you, take a look at these visual examples of perceptual set theory given in 1955 by Bruner and Minturn.

cta perceptual theory

What’s that character in the middle? If you’re like most people, you’d probably say it’s the number ’13’.

cta perceptual theory example

Now what does it look like? A lot more like the letter ‘B’ right? The first example prepared us for the possibility of another number, while the second did not. We were biased towards expecting a letter because of what was around it.

What This Means for Calls-to-Action

We’ve been conditioned by past experiences (culture) to anticipate (expectation) that the CTA is coming.

CTA example
Call-to-Action from the Neil Patel site.

When users are brought to your website’s landing page and read through what your content offer/service/product will include, their anticipation is building.

They know that at the right time, like the peak in a story line, they will be presented with the CTA.

As humans, finding exactly what we expected is delightful. What can be more satisfying than confirmation that we are right?

Oh yeah, pressing buttons.

You never grow out of the childish satisfaction of pressing a button. #CTA #calltoaction #convert #marketing tips via


Enable Users to Feel Accomplished

It’s the little things. Not many people can say they’ve won a gold medal in the olympics or fed a nation of starving children, but the instant gratification of pressing a button allows us to feel accomplished.

You built up to your Call-to-Action enough to create a kind of mystery and value, now users want it unveiled. They have the motivation to click it, and they anticipate the emotional reward they have in store.

Don’t leave your website users with a cliffhanger. Give them what them what they want and expect: a satisfying Call-to-Action.

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