Our Minds Demand Closure

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. At the end, the subjects remembered the interrupted tasks far better than the completed ones—over two times better, in fact.

Zeigarnik ascribed the finding to a state of tension, akin to a cliffhanger ending. Your mind wants to know what comes next. It wants to finish. It wants to keep working—and it will keep working even if you tell it to stop. All through those other tasks, it will subconsciously be remembering the ones it never got to complete. It’s the same Need for Closure that we’ve encountered before, a desire of our minds to end states of uncertainty and resolve unfinished business. This need motivates us to work harder, to work better, and to work to completion. And a motivated mind, as we already know, is a far more powerful mind.


Without closure we are more likely to remember something, a lack of closure bothers us and motivates us.

Folksonomies: memory motivation closure

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Psychology (0.974700): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
English-language films (0.708668): dbpedia
Mind (0.669872): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Perception (0.622308): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Cognition (0.614854): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
American films (0.593700): dbpedia
Black-and-white films (0.561100): dbpedia
MIND (0.560700): geo

 Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Konnikova , Maria (2013-01-03), Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Viking Adult, Retrieved on 2013-03-21
  • Source Material [books.google.com]
  • Folksonomies: psychology mindfulness