The Zeigarnik effect: Psychology-based technique to prevent from forgetting

Posted on June 28, 2020, 12:50 p.m.

Have you ever found yourself annoyed of interruption while you were working on something? According to a finding from psychology, we should stop before completing any task, then we remember the detail more than when we just complete the task. This is called the Zeigarnik effect.

What is the Zeigarnik effect?

The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological phenomenon named after a Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. When she noticed the phenomenon for the first time, she was at a restaurant with her professor and Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin. They saw a waiter who remembered of unpaid orders well, but he didn’t remember the detail of the order anymore after he completed his task (after he got paid). After she experienced at the restaurant, she conducted a series of experiments. Her research report was published in 1927, in the journal Psychologische Forschung.

In one of her experiments, she conducted a research to 138 children to do a series of simple tasks, puzzles, and math problems. She allowed them to complete the half of the tasks and interrupted during they were working on the remaining tasks. Afterwards, she investigated how much they remembered about the tasks after an hour’s delay. As a result, 110 of the 138 children had better memory about the interrupted tasks than the completed tasks. She also had an experiment involved adults, and the participants had 90% better memory about unfinished tasks than completed tasks.

Applications of the Zeigarnik effect

The effect is used in various aspects of modern cultures.

  1. Commercials during TV shows: By interruption the show at interesting moment, the audiences tend to stay on the same TV channel.
  2. Movie trailers: The story of a movie is never completed in the short movie trailer. It makes you feel like you want to watch the movie at movie theater.
  3. Ad banner clicks: Content creators use the effect to induce audiences to click their ad banners.

Utilize the Zeigarnik effect for personal lives

If you are a student, you can utilize the effect for your study before your exams. Before solving all of your problems, take your time and take a break for a while (interrupt yourself), then go back to your work. The effect suggests that you are more likely to remember your previous tasks and you will have better performances after the interruption. The effect is useful when you stop what you are doing even though you want to keep doing it. This will make you feel like thinking about the tasks and easy to recall them. You may find that you are able to have better days with effective enhance strategies.

Source: Good Therapy

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