The way of thinking about unfinished things: The Zeigarnik Effect

The way of thinking about unfinished things: The Zeigarnik Effect

Do you often find yourself thinking about unfinished, unfinished works? Your project, a part of which you have finished, makes you sleepy at night, or a novel that you still haven’t finished whirls in your head … Do not worry, this is completely normal; There is a scientific reason why we cannot stop thinking about unfinished, unfinished works. This situation, which psychologists describe as the ‘Zeigarnik Effect’, explains why incomplete work occupies our minds more than the completed ones.

When you start doing something and leave it unfinished, thoughts about the unfinished business keep spinning in your mind, even if you have started doing something else. You may need to go back to your unfinished business and finish it, and you may feel pushed to it often. This is why you are constantly thinking about a gripping novel that has taken you away. Or you just don’t feel comfortable starting a video game until you win / finish the game …

TV series also benefit from the Zeigarnik Effect by creating a similar effect. The episode is over, but the story is not complete, the screenwriters leave some parts especially open-ended and intriguing so that we can be curious enough not to forget the date when the new episode of the series will air …

The Zeigarnik Effect can also cause us to forget things that we thought would be stuck in our minds when the effect wears off. Think of those exams you were well prepared for while at school, and the times you had trouble remembering subjects you studied after passing the exam.

Sitting in a crowded restaurant in Vienna, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed that the waiters were better keeping in mind the unpaid orders. Once the account was paid, they had a hard time remembering the details of the order.

Zeigarnik conducted a series of studies on this discovery. The subjects participating in the study were given simple tasks such as stringing beads on a string, doing puzzles, or solving some math problems. Half of the subjects were disturbed while working on the task at hand and were made to leave their work unfinished. An hour later, two groups who completed and left unfinished were asked about the details of their work. People who left things unfinished remembered these details much better than others. In another version of the experiment, it was concluded that adult subjects remember unfinished jobs 90% better. The study was published in 1927 with the title “On Finished and Unfinished Works”.

The Zeigarnik Effect was remembered as a theory of interest in the scientific world, and some studies conducted in the 1960s also supported this theory. Working on memory, John Baddeley said in an experiment where participants were expected to solve a series of anagrams, answers were given to subjects who could not solve the anagram in the given time. It turned out that the participants remembered the words in anagrams that they could not solve better. The idea that we have engraved the details of the unfinished works in our memory was supported by this experiment.

The better focus of our minds on unfinished business may be a feature that we can turn to advantage. Of course, the fact that your stacked work list pervades your mind during the night is not making you sleep; To use this effect to your advantage, you can do some small tricks:

When preparing for an exam, study at intervals rather than working through all the topics at once. During your breaks, your mind will keep repeating the subject, so you will learn better.

If you have trouble remembering important things, try pausing your ‘memorizing’ process by inserting other things in between while thinking about it instead of repeating something over and over to memorize it.

Stop blaming your laziness for things that you could not complete. Even when you have just started that job, when you have left unfinished, it will not take long for the issue to come to your mind and it will be easier for you to find the motivation to finish it. Try the ‘take the first step, the rest will come’ approach!

Referanslar: Kendra, Cherry. (2019). An Overview of the Zeigarnik Effect and Memory.

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