Zeigarnik Effectphenomenon

= unaccomplished action effect = resumption of interrupted action effect. This phenomenon is the seemingly paradoxical assertion by the

Russian female psychologist Blyuma V. Zei-

garnik (1900-1988) that the recall of interrupted/unfinished tasks is superior to the recall of completed tasks. Zeigarnik is noted for her doctoral dissertation that was the first formal test of Kurt Lewin's Gestalt theory concerning the idea that attainment of a goal relieves tension. In a typical experimental procedure for the Zeigarnik effect, participants are asked to perform 15-22 different tasks; some tasks are manual (e.g., stringing beads), and some are mental (e.g., solving puzzles). On half of the activities, participants are allowed to continue until completion, but on the other half of the tasks they are asked to stop and move on to a new activity. Following this phase, the task materials are removed, and the participants are asked to recall some of the activities that they had just experienced. Results of this simple procedure typically show that the number of incompleted or unfinished tasks (called "I") that are recalled is higher than the number of completed tasks (called "C"). A calculated ratio, using "I/C," was always greater than 1.0 in Zeigarnik's experiments. In some cases, the I/C ratio was related, subsequently, to a person's "ambition" level. Among the possible alternative explanations that may account for the Zeigarnik effect are that participants may implicitly assume that the interrupted tasks will be completed at a later time; task interruption may set up a new motive involving resentment toward the interrupter, which causes better memory; the interruption of a task emphasizes that task; the participant may attempt to achieve "closure" concerning the incompleted tasks; participants' personal histories in being rewarded for attending to unsolved problems may lead to better memory; and fulfillment and completion may be defined differently by different persons in terms of their own sense of satisfaction. Studies show that the Zeigarnik effect is less likely to occur if the participant is ego-involved in the task, and is most likely to occur if the individual has a genuine level of aspiration in the interrupted task (i.e., the task is possible of being achieved ultimately). Other studies indicate that the differential effect between the I and C tasks seems to be quite temporary (typically being lost over a period of 24 hours), and does not occur with all types of tasks. See also

GESTALT THEORY/LAWS; LEWIN'S

FIELD THEORY.

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