Order of appearance of research articles influences clicks, downloads, cites

Note: analysis based on my Behavioral Orchestration and Analysis framework explained here.


It’s Good to be First: Order Bias in Reading and Citing; NBER Working Papers; Daniel R. Feenberg, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule, Jonathan Gruber; NBER Working Paper No. 21141; Issued in May 2015

Type & Goal(s)

This is a repeated natural experiment. The goal of this study wasn’t really to evaluate changes made but to know the impact of being the first paper listed on the NBER website. Note for non-economists: the NBER lists many top research papers each week and emails the list of new papers to 23,000 subscribers. The papers are ordered based on random factors.  Yet, “show that despite the randomized list placement, papers that are listed first each week are about 30% more likely to be viewed, downloaded, and cited over the next two years.”

Changes implemented

Choice Architecture

Choice ergonomics and usability

All else equals, being listed first provides a boost in clicks by about 30%.


The impact of the ordering of papers is undeniable and very strong.


This is especially useful for contexts where lists are presented, such as e-commerce or insurance plans options. The impact of Order is very often underestimated by all actors when defining and designing a UI/UX.