Bluma Zeigarnik

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pages: 331 words: 96,989

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam L. Alter

Alexey Pajitnov wrote Tetris, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Bluma Zeigarnik, call centre, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, easy for humans, difficult for computers, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, game design, Google Glasses, Ian Bogost, IKEA effect, Inbox Zero, Kickstarter, loss aversion, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, mental accounting, meta-analysis, Oculus Rift, Richard Thaler, Robert Durst, side project, Skype, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, telemarketer

In a classic paper: Dražen Prelec and Duncan Simester, “Always Leave Home Without It: A Further Investigation of the Credit-Card Effect on Willingness to Pay, Marketing Letters 12, no. 1 (2001): 5–12; see also: Dražen Prelec and George Loewenstein, “The Red and the Black: Mental Accounting of Savings and Debt,” Marketing Science 17, no. 1 (1998): 4–28. CHAPTER 8: CLIFFHANGERS In their own: Responses to the ending of The Italian Job on the Internet Movie Database: www.imdb.com/title/tt0064505/reviews. Forty years earlier: Background material on Bluma Zeigarnik and her eponymous effect: A. V. Zeigarnik, “Bluma Zeigarnik: A Memoir,” Gestalt Theory 29, no. 3 (December 8, 2007): 256–68; Bluma Zeigarnik, “On Finished and Unfinished Tasks,” in A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology, W. D. Ellis, ed., (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1938), 300–14; Colleen M. Seifert, and Andrea L. Patalano, “Memory for Incomplete Tasks: A Re-Examination of the Zeigarnik Effect,” in Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1991), 114–19.

The problem here was that viewers had committed an hour and a half to the story, and like all humans they were wired for closure. If you’ve ever been denied a joke’s punchline, you’ll know that it’s better to hear no story at all than to hear all but the story’s final beat. — Forty years earlier, a Lithuanian psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik stumbled on the power of cliffhangers. She was sipping coffee at a small café in Vienna when she noticed that her waiter remembered his customers’ orders with superhuman clarity. When he approached the kitchen, he knew to tell the cook to prepare eggs Benedict for table seven, a ham and cheese omelet for table twelve, and scrambled eggs for table fifteen.

This was the golden age of disco, and in many ways, “September” is a model disco classic. But in other ways it’s very unusual. Many pop hits follow a standard circular chord progression—they launch like a rocket ship, hover for a time above the launch pad, and ultimately close the melodic loop by returning to Earth. In the world of Bluma Zeigarnik’s waiter, these tracks are fulfilled orders: they’re satisfying, but your mind leaves them behind when they end, and another song begins. Not so for “September,” according to Peretz. “One of the amazing things about the chord progression in ‘September’ is that it never lands. It makes this loop that you never want to stop hearing.


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, Bluma Zeigarnik, business climate, Cal Newport, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, David Brooks, David Heinemeier Hansson, deliberate practice, disruptive innovation, Donald Knuth, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, follow your passion, Frank Gehry, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Jaron Lanier, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Merlin Mann, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, popular electronics, remote working, Richard Feynman, Ruby on Rails, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Snapchat, statistical model, the medium is the message, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game

The concept of a shutdown ritual might at first seem extreme, but there’s a good reason for it: the Zeigarnik effect. This effect, which is named for the experimental work of the early-twentieth-century psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, describes the ability of incomplete tasks to dominate our attention. It tells us that if you simply stop whatever you are doing at five p.m. and declare, “I’m done with work until tomorrow,” you’ll likely struggle to keep your mind clear of professional issues, as the many obligations left unresolved in your mind will, as in Bluma Zeigarnik’s experiments, keep battling for your attention throughout the evening (a battle that they’ll often win). At first, this challenge might seem unresolvable.


pages: 410 words: 101,260

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, availability heuristic, barriers to entry, Bluma Zeigarnik, business process, business process outsourcing, Cass Sunstein, clean water, cognitive dissonance, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dean Kamen, double helix, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Firefox, George Santayana, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, job-hopping, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, meta-analysis, minimum viable product, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, risk tolerance, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Wisdom of Crowds, women in the workforce

As Jones recalls, King “said that this was such ‘an important milestone in our civil rights struggle,’ we should make every effort to get the best ideas” from key players in the movement. King opened the meeting by explaining that he “wanted to review the ideas again and get the best approaches.” By delaying the task of fleshing out and firming up the speech, King allowed Jones to benefit from the Zeigarnik effect. In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik demonstrated that people have a better memory for incomplete than complete tasks. Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds. As Jones was comparing his early draft to the topic of that evening’s discussion, “something worked its way up from the depths of my subconscious.”* Four months earlier, Jones had met with Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a noted philanthropist whose family was supportive of civil rights, seeking funds to bail King out of the Birmingham jail.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: Peggy Noonan, “The Writing of a Great Address,” Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2013, www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324399404578583991319014114; Ronald C. White, Jr., The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words (New York: Random House, 2011). the Zeigarnik effect: Bluma Zeigarnik, “Das Behalten erledigter und unerledigter Handlungen,” Psychologische Forschung 9 (1927): 1–85; see Kenneth Savitsky, Victoria Husted Medvec, and Thomas Gilovich, “Remembering and Regretting: The Zeigarnik Effect and the Cognitive Availability of Regrettable Actions and Inactions,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 23 (1997): 248–57.


pages: 147 words: 37,622

Personal Kanban: Mapping Work, Navigating Life by Jim Benson, Tonianne Demaria Barry

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Bluma Zeigarnik, corporate governance, Howard Rheingold, intangible asset, job satisfaction, pattern recognition, performance metric, The Wisdom of Crowds, urban planning, Yogi Berra

Usually we’re not even aware we’ve left them unfinished, because we’ve approached our work with little care, with lack of foresight. Without visualizing our work, we don’t see the number of incomplete tasks we’ve amassed. This makes it nearly impossible to understand just how many incomplete tasks remain. Our brains hate this because our brains crave closure. No really, they do! Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that the human brain needs closure. This phenomenon—known as the “Zeigarnik Effect”—states that adults have a 90% chance of remembering interrupted and incomplete thoughts or actions over those that have been seen through to completion. With its tendency to seek out patterns to process meaning, the brain becomes preoccupied with missing pieces of information.


pages: 272 words: 66,985

Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction by Chris Bailey

"side hustle", Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Bluma Zeigarnik, Cal Newport, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Clayton Christensen, correlation does not imply causation, deliberate practice, functional fixedness, game design, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Parkinson's law, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Skype, twin studies, Zipcar

INSIGHT TRIGGERS Uncompleted tasks and projects weigh more heavily on our minds than ones we’ve finished—focus comes when we close these distracting open loops. We’re wired to remember what we’re in the middle of more than what we’ve completed. In psychology circles this phenomenon is called the Zeigarnik effect, after Bluma Zeigarnik, the first person to study this concept. The Zeigarnik effect can be annoying when we’re trying to focus, but the opposite is true when we scatter our attention. In fact, it leads to amazing insights into the problems we’re incubating. Chances are you’ve experienced a few eureka moments yourself.


pages: 262 words: 80,257

The Eureka Factor by John Kounios

active measures, Albert Einstein, Bluma Zeigarnik, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, Everything should be made as simple as possible, Flynn Effect, functional fixedness, Google Hangouts, impulse control, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, meta-analysis, Necker cube, pattern recognition, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, theory of mind, US Airways Flight 1549, Wall-E, William of Occam

That’s how a change in context can help you see things in new ways. This view of the unconscious mind as a filter or spin doctor for the conscious mind, rather than as a hidden collaborator or servant, provides a plausible basis for theories of incubation. UNFINISHED BUSINESS * * * During the 1920s, Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik traveled from the Soviet Union to Germany to study psychology with the Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin at the University of Berlin. Lewin once recounted an informal observation to her. During a meal in a restaurant, he was impressed by the waiters’ ability to remember multiple complicated orders without writing them down.


pages: 254 words: 81,009

Busy by Tony Crabbe

airport security, Bluma Zeigarnik, British Empire, business process, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, fear of failure, Frederick Winslow Taylor, haute cuisine, informal economy, inventory management, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, loss aversion, low cost airline, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, placebo effect, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, science of happiness, Shai Danziger, Thorstein Veblen, Tim Cook: Apple

The fact is, there is something inherent in human nature that, when given space, we fill it.11 Giving yourself a clear time to finish (whether a deadline for a project, or a time to leave work) helps in two ways. First, as suggested above, it raises our time awareness, creating a goal. Second, it stops us from creating space and time in our calendars, because things will always fill up that time. 8. Start Quicker In 1927, a Gestalt psychologist called Bluma Zeigarnik was sitting in a Vienna coffeehouse with a group of friends. They ordered a few rounds of drinks, yet the waiter never wrote down their order. Zeigarnik was intrigued by this, and, after the bill was paid and the group had left the coffeehouse, she returned. On questioning the waiter, she found that he no longer could recall what drinks had been ordered by her group.


pages: 317 words: 97,824

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, availability heuristic, Bluma Zeigarnik, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, delayed gratification, fear of failure, feminist movement, functional fixedness, Lao Tzu, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Walter Mischel

And too lax, well, you may not be stimulated to do anything, or you might relax a bit too much and fall asleep. Even if you don’t come to any conclusions or gain any perspective in your time off from a problem, chances are you will return to it both reenergized and ready to expend more effort. In 1927, Gestalt psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed a funny thing: waiters in a Vienna restaurant could remember only orders that were in progress. As soon as the order was sent out and complete, they seemed to wipe it from memory. Zeigarnik then did what any good psychologist would do: she went back to the lab and designed a study. A group of adults and children was given anywhere between eighteen and twenty-two tasks to perform (both physical ones, like making clay figures, and mental ones, like solving puzzles), but half of those tasks were interrupted so that they couldn’t be completed.


pages: 384 words: 118,572

The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time by Maria Konnikova

attribution theory, Bear Stearns, Bear Stearns, Bernie Madoff, Bluma Zeigarnik, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, coherent worldview, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, endowment effect, epigenetics, hindsight bias, lake wobegon effect, lateral thinking, libertarian paternalism, Milgram experiment, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, post-work, publish or perish, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, side project, Skype, Steven Pinker, sunk-cost fallacy, the scientific method, tulip mania, Walter Mischel

In other words, someone like Frampton, after being released, will likely fail to learn something about the future from his behavior in the past. Memory is a tricky thing, and once we’ve been taken once, it becomes all the more likely that we will fall for a con again. There is no better mark, many a con artist will tell you, than one who has already been duped. When Bluma Zeigarnik, a psychologist from the Gestalt school, discovered her eponymous effect—we remember interrupted tasks better than completed ones; our minds haven’t quite given up working on them, and we feel a strong need to attain some sort of closure—she also noted a far less frequently cited exception. As it turns out, we don’t remember all uninterrupted tasks equally.