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The Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect

Unfinished work continues to exert an influence, even when we try to move on to other things.

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. Such thoughts urge you to go back and finish it.

Books, video games and tv-series all take advantage of this effect.

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MORE IDEAS FROM THE SAME ARTICLE

It reveals a great deal about how memory works. Zeigarnik suggested that failing to complete a task creates underlying cognitive tension. This results in greater mental effort and rehearsal in order to keep the task at the forefront of awareness. Once completed, the mind is then able to le...

Take the first step, no matter how small. Once you've begun—but not finished—your work, you will find yourself thinking of the task until, at last, you finish it. 

This approach can not only help motivate you to finish, but it can also lead to a sense of accomplishment once you final...

  • Break up your study sessions rather than try to cram it all in the night before the test. By studying information in increments, you will be more likely to remember it until test day.
  • If you are struggling to memorize something important, momentary interruptions might actua...

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The Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik effect is our tendency to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks easier than completed tasks.

At first, the Zeigarnik Effect seems handy: We remember the things we still need to do.

  • But each incomplete task divides your focus, making it harder ...

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The brain is obsessed with unfinished tasks

When we have unfinished tasks, we think about them continuously. But the moment they are completed, we forget about them. If we have unread email, we constantly wonder what it says. But once it has been dealt with, we often cannot recall the details of it.

The name for this phenom...

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It suggests that not finishing a task creates mental tension, which keeps it at the forefront of our memory. 

The only thing that will relieve this tension is the closure brought on by completion of the task.

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