In 1962, Russian psychologist Blyuma Zeigarnik reported a CURIOUS phenomenon: people in all sorts of situations could remember incomplete tasks or issues much more readily than completed ones. Zeigarnik had first noticed that waitresses remembered orders that weren’t yet paid for much better than they remembered orders that were already paid for. This led her to investigate this premise and she found that it’s true – people remember things that aren’t completed much better than things that are completed.
You may have heard a professional public speaker use a technique called “opening up a metaphor”, which simply means to begin telling a story and then cutting it off at about 80-90%, ideally at the point of maximum suspense.
Why? Because it keeps the audience’s minds open and on alert, scanning for when the speaker might offer that last missing bit of information on “how the story ends”. In the process you will be more likely to have good absorption of the presented materials, which is what the speaker had in mind in the first place.
The Zeigarnik Effect has great importance in any form of communication – a speech, a sales letter, an ADVERTISEMENT.
When ads present a token ‘challenge’ to the reader to discover their full meaning they are capable of delivering a mild reward akin to solving a crossword puzzle clue. This makes the ad that much more rewarding and memorable.
Look at the attached ad. It depicts the bottom half of a golden body, clad in a skimpy bikini and is certainly is likely to trigger attention. The subsequent realisation that it is actually three oranges delivers a reward – a hit of appreciation for a clever ad. Well, that’s what happens provided everything goes to plan. However if readers see three oranges first, that’s boring and they may move right along without ever realising there is anything more to the ad.