A last goodbye, a last hug, a last kiss… Why is it so important for us to have closure? Why do we feel less vacant when we get that infamous ‘last goodbye’? Why can’t we forget the people we haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to or have a proper closure with? The same question goes for events or tasks too. Well, the simplest way to explain this is with the psychological phenomena called the Zeigarnik Effect. The Zeigarnik Effect is the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008, pg. 122).
Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist, found that waiters remembered orders only as long as the order was in the process of being served. Here’s how he figured this out: In the mid 1920’s, a group of psychologists went to a restaurant. The populous group ordered their meals but the intriguing part is only one waiter took their order, and he didn’t even write down what they asked for. Then their meal arrived, they ate and exited the restaurant. Later that day one of the psychologists went back to the restaurant and found the same waiter. The psychologist asked the waiter how he was able to remember all of the orders without messing them up. The waiter, confused, admitted that he couldn’t remember the orders he had recently took, let alone the group of psychologists. He told the psychologists that he wrote the orders down in his mind, delivered them to their designated client and then erased the order off his mind. After giving this event some thought, Zeigarnik and his colleagues concluded that incomplete tasks occupied the human brain. It all comes from our innate urge to complete things. We usually don’t like tasks to be left incomplete; we push our limits to accomplish goals. This is why the stronger the urge, the stronger the Zeigarnik Effect if the goal is not accomplished. It’s all about motivation.
An example that most of us can relate to is the fact that we find it difficult to forget about our exes. When one breaks up with someone, it gives one the feeling that ones goal wasn’t accomplished and that it was a failed task thus leading to dissonance in the brain and ending with the Zeigarnik Effect. It is a proven fact that we remember the break-up more vividly than the first date because one is a failure whilst the other is an accomplishment. We don’t bother remembering the goals we’ve accomplished, our brain is more concentrated on the incomplete.
Everyone has experienced this phenomena, whether they knew what it was or now. But at least now you do. Tell me, wouldn’t you be bothered if the sentence ended just in the middle of the
-Ceylin Donat (Konuk Yazar)