- Zeigarnik Effect — GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog
- What Is the Zeigarnik Effect?
- Find a Therapist
- Applications of the Zeigarnik Effect
- Harnessing the Zeigarnik Effect for Personal Use
- The Zeigarnik Effect and Mental Health
- No Interruptions? How The Zeigarnik Effect Could Help You To Study Better
- Discovery of the Zeigarnik Effect
- Remembering Details
- The Zeigarnik Effect and How it Affects Productivity
- 5 ways you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to boost productivity
- 1. Start now and create momentum
- 2. Take strategic breaks to help memory
- 3. Write a to-do list at the end of the day
- 4. Compartmentalize your day
- 5. Use project management software
- How the Zeigarnik Effect affects your team's productivity and what you can do about it
- What Is the Zeigarnik Effect? Definition and Examples
- Origins of the Zeigarnik Effect
- Zeigarnik’s Initial Experiments
- Productivity and Learning
- How to reference this article:
Zeigarnik Effect — GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog
The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological phenomenon describing a tendency to remember interrupted or incomplete tasks or events more easily than tasks that have been completed. This phenomenon was first noticed in the early 1900s and has been reproduced in a number of studies.
What Is the Zeigarnik Effect?
The Zeigarnik effect was named after its founder, Russian psychiatrist and psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik.
While dining at a restaurant in the 1920s, Zeigarnik noticed waiters were able to keep track of complex orders and unpaid meals, but once the orders were filled and paid for, the waiters were unable to recall detailed information about the orders. Intrigued, she decided to study the phenomenon via a series of experiments in her lab.
In one of her experiments, Zeigarnik asked a group of 138 children to complete a series of simple tasks, puzzles, and arithmetic problems. She allowed the children to complete half of the tasks and interrupted them during the remaining tasks.
Zeigarnik investigated their recall after an hour’s delay and discovered 110 of the 138 children had better recall for the interrupted tasks than the completed tasks.
In a related experiment involving adults, the participants were able to recall unfinished tasks 90% better than completed tasks.
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The Zeigarnik effect has since been studied by many other researchers, with some able to replicate Zeigarnik’s findings and others unable to do so.
Several models have been proposed to explain the effect.
Some theories mention the cognitive tension that arises from having an unfinished task and the need to keep the task in mind in order to eventually complete it and release this internal tension.
Studies indicate other factors such as motivation, reward expectancy, time of interruption, and the achievability of the required task may have a significant impact on the strength of the Zeigarnik effect.
Applications of the Zeigarnik Effect
The Zeigarnik effect is employed in many aspects of modern culture. It may differ slightly by industry, but the underlying principles remain the same:
- Initiate or draw attention to an interest-arousing event.
- Allow people to participate in some way.
- Terminate the event prematurely to create cognitive tension.
- Invite participants to return for the resolution.
Common applications of the concept include:
- Generating effective headlines or teasers in the news industry
- Creating attention-grabbing trailers in the movie industry
- Using cliffhangers in the production of serialized books or television shows
- Designing multiple and interrelated quests in the gaming industry
- Creating click-inducing ads to promote online sales
Harnessing the Zeigarnik Effect for Personal Use
Many people experience the intrusive thoughts that come with an unfinished or interrupted task, but there are many personal benefits to be gained if individuals learn to effectively channel these thoughts and the internal desire to get the job done.
People who are prone to procrastination may learn the importance of starting tasks early or of simply starting anywhere they can. The cognitive tension associated with the Zeigarnik effect will help to pull these individuals back to work until the job is completed on time.
Productivity may also be increased for individuals who work promptly but have issues with multitasking.
A thorough understanding of the cognitive intrusions accompanying uncompleted tasks will help workers appreciate that each new task is essentially an interruption of what was previously being done.
Workers may be therefore motivated to set reasonable limits on the amount of multitasking they do, thereby increasing work performance while reducing cognitive overload and frustration.
Students may also take advantage of the Zeigarnik in their studies.
By designing study sessions with appropriate breaks involving unrelated activities, students are ly to experience more intrusive thoughts about the topics they cover and may be better able to reflect on and consolidate these thoughts. A prolonged study period without breaks is typically less effective for information recall.
The Zeigarnik Effect and Mental Health
The Zeigarnik effect can play an important role in a person’s mental health. Incomplete tasks, particularly those with negative consequences, often lead to frequent and stressful intrusive thoughts. These thoughts can reduce sleep, promote anxiety, and further deplete a person’s mental and emotional resources, possibly even contributing to maladaptive behaviors.
Conversely, the Zeigarnik effect can promote mental well-being by motivating an individual to complete tasks, develop better habits, and resolve lingering issues.
The successful completion of assigned tasks can provide a sense of accomplishment while boosting self-confidence and self-esteem. The development of productive work and study habits can also contribute to a personal sense of maturity and self-growth.
Additionally, a person who can find closure for stress-inducing events will ly experience a long-term positive impact on psychological well-being.
- Friedman, W. J. (2010). The zeigarnik effect and completing everything. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/the-zeigarnik-effect-and-completing-everything
- McGraw, K. O. & Fiala, J. (1982). Undermining the zeigarnik effect. Journal of Personality, 50(1), 58-66. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1982.tb00745.x
- Seifert, C. M., & Patalano, A. L. (1991). Memory for incomplete tasks: A re-examination of the zeigarnik effect. In Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 114-119. Retrieved from http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1286&context=div3facpubs
- Zeigarnik, B. (1927). Uber das behalten yon erledigten und underledigten handlungen. Psychologische Forschung, 9, 1-85. Retrieved from http://codeblab.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/On-Finished-and-Unfinished-Tasks.pdf
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No Interruptions? How The Zeigarnik Effect Could Help You To Study Better
Your own experience of revising for exams might tell you that sessions of uninterrupted concentration can help you to better remember key pieces of information. Indeed, many students will engage in periods of “cramming” — intensive revision just before a test — in the belief that essential subject facts and figures will be memorized ready for exam day.
However, this commonly held wisdom has been contradicted by an observation made in a psychological study. Now known as the Zeigarnik effect, it was found that interruption during a task that requires focus can in fact improve, rather than heed, a person’s ability to remember it afterwards.
This unexpected effect has implications for the techniques that we might use to learn and to recall important pieces of information.
Discovery of the Zeigarnik Effect
Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik observed the effect of interruption on memory processing in 1927.
Whilst studying at the University of Berlin, her professor, Kurt Lewin, had noted how waiters in a cafe seemed to remember incomplete tabs more efficiently than those that had been paid for and were complete.
This appeared to suggest that the mere completion of a task can lead to it being forgotten, whilst incomplete tasks, such as serving guests a table who had not yet finished their meal, helped to ensure the waiter remembered their order.
Zeigarnik decided to test this hypothesis in an experimental setting, and published her findings in “On Finished and Unfinished Tasks” in 1927.
In the experiment, she asked each participant to complete a series of separate tasks, such as solving a puzzle or assembling a flat-pack box.
During around round half of the assignments, participants were subtly interrupted by the experiment supervisor, whilst the during the remaining tasks, they were allowed time to complete them uninterrupted.
Following the experiment, Zeigarnik interviewed each participant, asking them to recall details of each task that they had attempted. The results were surprising, but appeared to confirm Lewin’s initial observation of the effect of interruption on waiters’ memory retention.
Zeigarnik’s initial findings revealed that participants were able to recall details of interrupted tasks around 90% better than those that they had been able to complete undisturbed. (Zeigarnik, 1927).
1 These results suggest that a desire to complete a task can cause it to be retained in a person’s memory until it has been completed, and that the finality of its completion enables the process of forgetting it to take place.
If accurate, this supports our understanding of memory function, in that the active rehearsal of information enables its retention, whilst information that is not rehearsed is more ly to be discarded. This feature of memory rehearsal is key, for example, to Baddeley and Hitch’s Working Memory Model.
Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik was born in Prienai, Lithuania in 1901. Meningitis blighted her studies as a child, but in 1922, she managed to enrol at the University of Berlin.
Completing a doctorate in 1927 under the supervision of psychologist Kurt Lewin, she continued to work at the university and published the paper “On Finished and Unfinished Tasks” — findings of which would later become known as the Zeigarnik effect.
Zeigarnik became a member of the influential group of academics known as the Vygotsky Circle, named after its leader, the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). She died in Moscow in 1988 aged 86.
The Zeigarnik effect would be of limited use if it could not be replicated, and so numerous studies have been carried out since Zeigarnik’s publication in an attempt to replicate her findings. These studies have provided mixed results, but lend some support for her original claims.
British Psychologist John Baddeley, who would later develop the Working Memory Model with Graham Hitch, carried out an experiment in 1963 in which participants were asked to solve a set of anagrams, each within a set time frame.
Were they unable to solve the anagram in time, they would be given the solution.
When he asked participants to recall the word solutions, he found that participants were more ly to remember the anagrams that they had not solved than those that they had completed, supporting the case for the Zeigarnik effect (Baddeley, 1963).2
In another study, U.S. psychologist John Atkinson focussed on motivational aspects of task completion. He too observed the Zeigarnik effect in memory recall, but noted that remembering of unfinished tasks was also influenced by individual differences among participants.
Atkinson noted that those subjects who approached tasks with a higher motivation to accomplish them would be more affected by those that they had been unable to complete and would be more ly to remember them.
By contrast, if a participant was less motivated, the incomplete status of a task be of less concern and so less memorable to them (Atkinson, 1953).3
The Zeigarnik effect was an interesting observation when its namesake popularised it in 1927, but how can our knowledge of it be applied in everyday situations? Can the effect of task interruption be used in a positive way, such as to aid memory retention?
Whilst research into the application of Zeigarnik’s findings to better remember is limited, one way of employing the Zeigarnik effect when attempting to memorise a detailed piece of information, such as a long phone number, or whilst revising a subject, might be to avoid trying to remember it in its entirety in one sitting.
Take a look at the information, familiarise yourself with it, then ‘interrupt yourself’ — look away from where it is written for a few moments and think of something else, before returning a few more times to remember chunks of the number. Finally, piece these chunks together and attempt to recall the number in its entirety.
Could the Zeigarnik effect be applied by marketers to encourage consumers to absorb branding and messages in advertisements?
In 1972, James Heimbach and Jacob Jacoby suggested in a paper that the “jingle” in some advertisements may play on the Zeigarnik effect, as viewers would be compulsed to hear a musical section to its natural conclusion.
Therefore, they hypothesised that audiences would be more ly to hear out an ad’s content if accompanied by a recognizable jingle that that felt the need to hear the end of than if it was unaccompanied.
Moreover, they proposed that hearing just a section of a familiar advert could encourage audiences to remember it.
In a series of experiments, they tested these hypotheses by constructing videotapes of television programs interspersed with various complete or incomplete commercials and tested viewers’ recall of the advertisements after watching the tapes.
It was found that highly motivated participants (those whose “need for achievement” had been measured as being high) demonstrated the Zeigarnik effect in recalling adverts with a jingle. Furthermore, an interruption, especially towards the end of the commercial, prompted better recall of advertisements, supporting the influence of the Zeigarnik effect in viewer’s recall of commercials (Heimbach and Jacoby, 1972).4
The Zeigarnik Effect and How it Affects Productivity
The Zeigarnik Effect refers to people’s tendency to remember interrupted or incomplete tasks better than they remember completed ones. Which sounds good, after all, it’s more beneficial to remember what needs to be done. Also, it’s good that we should want to finish tasks that we have started.
Except, it’s actually been shown that the Zeigarnik Effect can negatively impact your productivity. And it can do this for two reasons: first of all, every incomplete task you’re thinking about makes it harder to concentrate on what you’re doing right now.
A 2011 study concluded that when interrupted during a task people tend to perform worse on the next task than people are who are allowed to complete one task at a time.
The second reason is that the Zeigarnik Effect means our unfinished work goes home with us. Unfinished work is much harder to forget, and so makes relaxing or unwinding much harder.
With that said, there is research to indicate that you don’t have to complete a task to feel some measure of mental relief. The researched shows that all you need to do I planning to finish incomplete tasks can help stop your brain from constantly reminding you about all your unfinished work.
5 ways you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to boost productivity
With all that said, there is actually a way you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to boost productivity. The task-specific tension can be used to sustain productive momentum, and focus.
Here are 5 ways the Zeigarnik Effect can be used to boost productivity:
1. Start now and create momentum
Procrastination is part and parcel of office life. And that’s true whether you’re working in an office or from home.
We have all been in that situation where we’ve left something to the absolute last minute. Usually because of other small tasks that have cropped up and stolen our attention. Which then leaves us racing through an important task in a stress-fueled frenzy.
Which invariably leads to mistakes. Which leads to going back and reworking the task.
The way to get around this is to mark a start. Not start with the intent to finish the whole thing. But rather, if you know you’ve got a deadline in ten days, and you think it’ll be fine to leave it to the eleventh hour. Don’t.
Instead, create a brief outline of what you need to do or in some small way start the ball rolling. This will do wonders for your motivation. Because once you’ve started your brain will keep prompting you to do a little bit more, and a little bit more, and a little bit more; and then the task is complete.
One way you can achieve this is by blocking out small sections of time. Anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, or whatever works for your schedule. Committing small units of time helps get you started and stay motivated to finish.
It also means you stay fresh, and are far less ly to make mistakes.
Read more on what to do when employees are unproductive.
2. Take strategic breaks to help memory
Taking strategic breaks can actually help to boost your memory and improve productivity. Specifically, you want to take short, deep breaks while working on a task.
A deep break is short yet productive rest break that can help you maintain concentration and productivity for days on end.
Essentially what you want to do is at a prescribed time, stop what you are doing and do something unrelated. There have been studies which show that students who take study breaks to do anything else have a tendency to remember what they are studying better than students who study until they drop.
To ensure you maintain momentum on a task, make sure to take dedicated short breaks during the day. And make sure the breaks are not work related. Go for a walk, make a drink, play a mindless game for a few moments.
These breaks don’t have to be long: they can be 5-10 minutes. As long as you completely disengage from work for those 5-10 minutes the deep break will help your memory and your productivity.
3. Write a to-do list at the end of the day
If not properly managed the Zeigarnik Effect will hinder your productivity and make you less efficient. Which is why, as stated at the top of this post, finishing your day with a to-do list can help you relax at home, and so be better focused—and rested—the next day.
A to-do list can give you a sense of completion, and it can combat your brain’s desire to constantly remind you how much work is left to do. If we can’t switch off that part of our brain, it tends to lead to tension, anxiety, stress and eventually burn out.
And none of those are good for productivity—or your health.
A study was conducted at Florida State University which demonstrated a to-do list or detailed plan of when work was going to be completed led to fewer distracting thoughts about incomplete work.
Essentially, all you have to do is acknowledge that there is still work left to do by writing it down. And this will help reduce mental strain. It will also allow you to unwind and relax so you can return to your work rested and ready to go.
4. Compartmentalize your day
Do you find yourself checking your email every now and then “just in case”? And then you see 10 to 12 emails, and you think, “I’ll get to that later, but now I need to focus on this task.”
Well, you are no longer completely focused on that task. Those emails and whether or not they are important, or need to be delegated out will gnaw away at the back of your mind.
Eventually you will have to do something about them, and too often this means pausing the current work to address emails. Which, as we all know, can be a rabbit hole where productivity goes to die.
Where possible: don’t check your email consistently throughout the day.
Block out specific time in your day for emails, and other things that you know will distract you from your work. Knowing that you have a block of time in the day to handle emails will help you to forget them and keep all your attention squarely where it needs to be.
This will improve your concentration and so help you better complete work.
5. Use project management software
Project management software tools are often the easiest and most efficient way to stay organized and focused.
They allow you to see not only your own tasks but also how those tasks and your team’s tasks relate to a project. Which helps to keep your day compartmentalized.
Having detailed tasks list nested in order of priority, can help you stay focused on the task at hand. Start and due dates as well as time to clearly specify the schedule of the task are also there to make it easy to plan out the days ahead.
Which is very useful if you want to get started to create momentum and ensure a task is completed before the due date.
Project management software also allows you set reminders either for when a task needs to be started or when its due. This way you will not have to worry about incomplete tasks. You will know that when it is time to start a task you will receive a notification.
A quality project management software tool also allows you to communicate in real time with other team members, as well as share documents, and get notified about the most important updates in a project.
By organizing a team through project management software, not only will efficiencies be improved and processes streamlined, it will also help to minimize the negative affects of the Zeigarnik Effect on team members.
How the Zeigarnik Effect affects your team's productivity and what you can do about it
The Zeigarnik Effect can—if not properly managed—negatively affect your team’s productivity. However, with the ways outlined above, you can actually use the Zeigarnik Effect to boost productivity.
Project management software will help your team to stay on top of tasks, to know how long they have to complete a task, and also keep everything so well organized they can let their brain relax when they clock off.
Using project management software to compartmentalize a team members day and allowing them to focus on one task at a time will allow them to be more productive. A key advantage of this is it will help to ensure projects are completed on time and to project’s agreed-upon specifications.
What Is the Zeigarnik Effect? Definition and Examples
- The Zeigarnik effect refers to the tendency for interrupted tasks, in some circumstances, to be recalled better than completed tasks.
- Name after the Russain psychologist Bluma (Wolfovna) Zeigarnik (1901-88), who first reported it in the journal Psychologische Forschung in 1927.
Origins of the Zeigarnik Effect
The Zeigarnik Effect is the tendency for tasks which have been interrupted and uncompleted to be better remembered than tasks which have been completed.
Bluma Zeigarnik (1927) first saw this effect in waiters, who seemed to remember orders only so long as the order was in the process of being served, and promptly forgot the order as soon as it was finished.
This small observation of waiters came to become the starting point of a series of experiments by Zeigarnik (Denmark, 2009).
At the time when Zeigarnik studied the Zeigarnik effect, she was supervised by the notable Gestalt theorist Kurt Lewin and was frequently exposed to the writings of Gestalt psychologists such as Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka, and Max Wertheimer (MacLeod, 2020).
In short, Gestalt psychology is a school of psychology that emerged in the early 20th century which emphasizes that the whole of human behavior is not deducible from the analysis of parts of that behavior in isolation.
Zeigarnik was strongly influenced by the field theory of her supervisor Kurt Lewin in her studies of the Zeigarnik Effect. Lewin postulated a theory of psychological tensions where tensions were forms of energetics (Marrow, 1969).
These “psychic tensions' provided people with the mental energy to prepare for and bring about behavior, and this behavior released the tension. Zeigarnik attributed the same principle as the cause of the Zeigarnik effect, and her dissertation ultimately connected Lewin’s psychic field theory to observations of behavior in waiters.
Zeigarnik’s Initial Experiments
In her series of experiments on the Zeigarnik effect, Zeigarnik (1927) asked participants to complete a series of anywhere between 15 and 22 tasks. Some involved tactile tasks (such as stringing beads), while others involved applying mental abilities to, for example, solve a puzzle.
Zeigarrnik allowed half of the participants to complete their tasks and interrupted the other half of these participants partway through, asking the participants to move onto something else.
She removed the tasks from the subject's view and, after an hour delay, asked the participants to recall the activities they had been involved in. For example, in her first experiment, Zeigarnik gave 32 adults 22 tasks, such as thread winding, paper folding, multiplication, drawing, and counting backward.
The tasks were intended to take from 3-5 minutes, and were interrupted when the patient “was most engrossed” in the task.Zeigarnik’s initial studies confirmed her initial hypothesis Zeigaarnik conducted four such experiments.
In the first experiment, which she considered to be her main experiment, she tested participants individually and the number of unfinished tasks (designated I) that participants recalled were significantly higher than the number of tasks that participants completed (designated C).
In fact, participants were twice as ly to remember incomplete tasks than complete ones (Zeigarnik, 1927; Denmark, 2009). She replicated this experiment with 15 individual adults and in group situations with 47 adults and 45 adolescent children.
Zeigarnik, in subsequent experiments, examined the recall ratio for tasks interrupted at different times and found that tasks which were interrupted at the middle or toward the end were more ly to be recalled than those interrupted near the beginning of work on them. A
s the participants grew nearer and nearer to completing each task they were interrupted in, they became increasingly more ly to remember these incomplete tasks over completed ones.
According to Zeigarnik’s hypothesis, participants were more ly to remember incomplete tasks because they spurred “psychic tension.” Once someone completed the task, this relieves psychic tension, and thus they can release it from their memory, and the person no longer uses significant cognitive effort to remember the task (Zeigarnik, 1927).
Zeigarnik also found that people who expressed high levels of ambition were more ly to remember incomplete tasks (that is to say, a high I/C ratio) than those who have average levels of ambition (a low I/C ratio).
If participants believed that an incomplete task represented a failure, they were also more ly to remember incomplete tasks than those who had not.
Zeigarnik carried out two further small experiments (with 12 adults) to challenge alternative interpretations to her theory, for example, interrupting tasks but then allowing participants to immediately resume completing half of them.
Again, she observed that participants were ultimately the most ly to recall tasks that she never allowed to be completed. In her second of these small experiments, she told six participants that six of the interrupted tasks would be resumed and that another six would not be, though no tasks were ever resumed.
Once again, Zeigarnik found that, regardless of whether or not she said the tasks would be resumed, all of the tasks that were interrupted were more ly to be remembered by participants than those which the participant was able to complete (MacLeod, 2020).
Psychologists generally agree that the Zeigarnik effect is sensitive to a number of factors that are difficult to control in a laboratory experiment.
For example, the Zeigarnik effect is less ly to appear if a participant is ego-involved in the task, the effect is more ly to appear if the interruption of the tasks does not seem to be an intentional part of the experiment, and the effect is more ly to appear if the participant has not come to the conclusion that the task is impossible or beyond their ability (Denmark, 2009).
There are two features of Zeigarnik’s methodology that have been little discussed but which may have influential implications.
In her studies, Zeigarnik only recorded responses produced before participants hesitated, as she considered only that portion of recall to be related to her tension hypothesis.
Zeigarnik also observed that uncompleted tasks tended to be recalled first (MacLeod, 2020).
This idiosyncratic methodology may be one reason why some researchers, beginning with the work of Schlote (1930) have been unsupportive of the Zeigarnik effect.
A series of psychologists have criticized the replicability of the Zeigarnik effect, Hovland (1951) for example stating that “few investigators could unequivocally reproduce Zeigarnik’s findings,” and arguing that findings differed dramatically depending on participant personality.
A review by Butterfield (1964) concluded that the Zeigarnik effect is far from being the invariable result in ITP [interrupted task paradigm].
Frequently, more complete than uncompleted tasks are recalled,” and many psychologists since then (such as Atkinson (1953) have claimed that there is no “universal pattern” as to whether or not and which sort of participants recalled more incomplete than complete tasks (MacLeod, 2020).
Despite conflicting accounts as to the validity of the Zeigarnik effect, the phenomenon nonetheless remains an extensively researched topic, with studies aimed at measuring the effect with those with intellectual disabilities and in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as studies analyzing the relationship with memory and ego-states (Heinz, 1997; House and McIntosh, 2000; Mantyla and Sgaramella, 1997).
Productivity and Learning
Many psychologists and pedagogists have examined the implications of the Zeigarnik effect on learning. Generally, educators believe that if a learning task is interrupted and resumed later, then the information learned during that task is more ly to be remembered.
An educator may recommend, for example, that one studies a subject in small intervals, and taking breaks midway through memorizing a concept may lead to better recall.
Others may suggest, for example, that in order to avoid procrastination, one can take the very first step toward completing a task as soon as possible before resuming it later.
Applications have ranged as far as general advice on exam preparation to designs of outdoor classroom experiences. For example, Hiramatsu, et. al. (2014) recount the development of a learning system for outdoor school trips in Japanese elementary and secondary schools.
The researchers developed a mobile application which gave students quizzes on field trips on topics which they were not aware that they would be quizzed on beforehand, but which they had studied in school.
Those who answered the quizzes showed more interest and recall of the objects shown in those quizzes than those not shown in the quizzes.
Those who had been given an incomplete preparatory lecture were more ly to recall and answer quiz questions correctly than those who were not.
Advertisers have long used the Zeigarnik effect as a method of catching the attention and memory of viewers. For example, in one study of the potential for the Zeigarnik effect in advertising, Heimbach (1972) carries out a series of trials.
In one such trial, the researchers prepared 30-minute television programs with four test and five filler commercials each existing in program breaks. Some commercials were shown in their entirety, while others were interrupted.
Immediately after finishing the television program, the researchers asked participants to identify the type of product, the brand name of the product, and a detailed description of the contents of each of the nine commercials shown to them.
All in all, despite the researcher’s hypothesis, there was little support for the application of the Zeigarnik effect to broadcast advertising.
However, a more thoroughly controlled experiment conducted later by Heimbach showed that indeed, interrupted commercials were more ly to be remembered than those which were not (Heimbach, 1972).
Charlotte Nickerson is a student at Harvard University. Coming from a research background in biology and archeology, Charlotte currently studies how digital and physical space shapes human beliefs, norms, and behaviors and how this can be used to create businesses with greater social impact.
How to reference this article:
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