Use the Zeigarnik Effect: Interrupt Your Learning

Our story begins in an Austrian café.

It was in that café that Bluma Zeigarnik, a young Lithuanian psychology student, met with her professor. And it was there that one of them noticed something unusual about the waiters.

These waiters memorised their customers’ orders rather than writing them down. The funny thing was that the waiters forgot the orders as soon as a customer paid their bill. It was like the information was wiped from their memory by a simple transaction.

Zeigarnik theorised that, because our brains are so goal focused, unfinished tasks would remain in our memory more than finished ones. It was a simple theory and one easy to test…. and Zeigarnik was not one to shy away from a challenge.

She gathered research subjects who had to complete a range of tasks from solving puzzles to stringing beads. Participants were generally told the point was to complete tasks as fast as possible.

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