The Zeigarnik Effect: The need for closure.

First identified by gestalt psychologist Kevin Lewin, the zeigarnik effect is where we tend to remember incomplete tasks more often than tasks that are completed. This effect was first discovered in 1927 when Kevin Lewin sitting in a restaurant in Vienna noticed that waiters only remembered orders while they were in the process of being served thus incomplete, and when they were completed they later had little recollection of the orders they previously carried out if any recollection at all. This resulted in Kevins Lewin's student Bluma Zeigarnik theorizing that unfinished business or an incomplete task created ''psychic tension'' within us, and this tension can drive us to seek closure in regards to either unfinished business or an incomplete task.

The need for closure
The human mind is motivated to seek closure, where something is perceived to be unfinished the memory seems to hold onto it until it is resolved. A classic example would come from television soaps where an episode of your favourite television show would build up to its eventual climax after a long running storyline and you would literally be hanging at the edge of your seat, then the words TO BE CONTINUED would appear on your television screen right when you were really getting hooked. This can be quite annoying, but funnily enough it is near guaranteed that you will be thinking about it throughout the week until the showing of the next episode, and as a result you will tune in to watch it to find out what happened thus seeking and gaining closure.

Another example where most people can experience a lack of closure is at the ending of a relationship, this may be because of a lack of communication from one or both parties involved where you don't or cannot find a real reason as to why things didn't work out, this results in you asking yourself a lot of questions in regards to the relationship which can lead to obsessive overthinking making it hard to let go after the break up. But if the relationship ended amicably with both parties getting everything off of their chest and out in the open and reaching an understanding from both sides then usually this lessens the tension that normally creeps up during a break up because any lingering questions would have been answered giving you less to think about afterwards.

The Zeigarnik effect also suggests that our need for closure can also be an aid against procrastination. For instance by simply starting a project or a task preferably at an easier point you are more likely to finish the remainder of the task, this is because by not completing what you started your mind keeps drifting back and thinking about the incomplete task creating that psychic tension giving you a strong desire to finish it. And of course by starting at a smaller easier point of the task and laddering your way up to the harder parts it makes it seem that much more accessible rather than having to deal with a monumentally difficult task right off the bat.   

After her professor Kevin Lewin noticed the waiters increased recollection of incomplete or unpaid orders at the restaurant in Vennia as previously described, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik decided to test out the theory regarding this incident. She asked roughly 20 or so participants to perform some simple tasks such as solving puzzles and stringing beads. Some of the participants were able to complete the tasks while some of the others were interrupted half way through completing their tasks. Afterwards Bluma asked the participants which of the tasks they remembered doing, according to her results people are twice as likely to remember a task that has been interrupted than a task which has been fully completed. Lastly, interestingly enough nearly 90% of the participants that were interrupted during their task carried on with their puzzle anyway without encouragement.

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