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Reading Notes / Zeigarnik Effect

Posted On 03.04.2022

The Zeigarnik Effect means: If you are working on a task and being interrupted, the task remains longer in your mind, making it easier to remember the task’s details.

A more detailed explanation for this effect is: When a task has been established, it creates a task-specific tension, which improves cognitive accessibility of the relevant contents, making it easier to access or remember. The tension is relieved upon task completion but will persist if the task is interrupted.

For example:

  • A waiter can remember the order of unpaid tables very well, but once the order is paid, they hardly recall any details.
  • If you cannot finish some task before the weekend, your mind be stuck with that task during the weekend.
  • When you are working on some problem and stuck, go for a walk with that problem in mind, you might be able to think better about it and come up with a solution.

So, depending on how would you want to do with an unfinished task before an interrupt, you can either:

  • Keep it in mind and take a break. This will help you solve the problem better.
  • Or write down your thoughts about the task somewhere make a promise to come back with it after the interruption. This will release your mind, so you have the capacity for other activities.