Zeigarnik Effect

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“People remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks” …

Sounds familiar?

In the 1920s, Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik conducted a study on memory in which she compared memory in relation to incomplete and complete tasks. She found that incomplete tasks are easier to remember than successful ones and this is now known as the Zeigarnik effect. (Source:Wikipedia)

Zeigarnik Effect is a brilliant technique designers use to make users do certain things they wouldn’t do otherwise. For example, LinkedIn uses this trick to make users complete their profile. It has a profile strength indicator which includes a link that says “Improve Your Profile Strength.” Once you click on it, you’ll see all the things you can do to complete your profile and move up a level. (Beginner to Intermediate to All star)

Image result for linkedin profile complete
Source: Google Image

The best example of Zeigarnik effect in UI is definitely the use of progress bars which inform users of how close they are to complete a task by saying you have two more steps left or by showing percentage of completion along the journey.

In our daily life, we come across this concept quite a lot, but I don’t know how many of us are aware of it. The attention-grabbing teasers and trailers for movies leaving out critical details, cliffhangers in daily television serials leaving the audience in suspense and making them wait for the next episode, waiters’ fantastic memories for orders but only until the orders had been delivered, designing multiple levels in the gaming industry, creating click-inducing ads to promote online sales, use of an ellipsis instead of a full stop in an email header and lot more.

The Zeigarnik Effect suggests that not completing a task creates mental tension, which keeps it at the forefront of our memory. The only thing that will relieve this tension, is closure brought on by completing the task. Even thinking about an unresolved bug in the code over a whole weekend can be considered as an effect, ‘Zeigarnik Effect’ has on you!

Let me tell you an interesting fact, the Zeigarnik effect can help you to stop procrastinating. (Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something). To stop procrastination all you have to do is get started! Start by taking the first step, no matter how small it is. When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you’ve moved on to other things. For example, if you are writing an article, just go ahead and write the first sentence, or if it’s a report, start writing the contents page. It doesn’t matter what you write, all that matters is that you start the task. This approach can not only help motivate you to finish, but it can also lead to a sense of accomplishment once you finally finish the task.

Have you ever applied Zeigarnik Effect in your Industry? If yes, How? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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