Continued from the previous post on the Zeigarnik Effect:

So I left you hanging there for a good while, with that "opened metaphor"… your mind feeling the effects of the Zeigarnik Effect (I actually had a few people call me wanting to know the next step).

How is this any different from when your favorite show, say the Sopranos, left you with a cliff hanger scene in the season finale? Do you think this had an effect on you?

Of course it did, your unconscious mind dutifully noted that there was an incomplete item, an unfinished story arc, and it kept this open loop churning, in the back of your mind… waiting… scanning the environment for any sign of the missing piece.

And even though months may have gone by, it never quite went away, this feeling that something was missing. And when the new season opening date would be announced, your awareness and attention was already heightened. Just as the producers of the show wanted them to be.

Now this and the typical episode-to-episode cliff hangers and last moment cut-offs ("24" has created and entire show based on this principle, complete with the "24 Timer") are just some of the most obvious examples and only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Many more examples abound in advertisement and marketing, I’ll just name a few:

Email subject lines with incomplete or otherwise enticing subject lines, beckoning you to at least take a quick look-see what all the fuss is about.

So-called Alternate Reality Games (ARG’s) that have you hunting for a sequence of clues and solving puzzles, are used by some very large marketing accounts for e.g. new product introductions.

TV ads that shock you with an unexpected twist, and then ask in big letters on the screen: "What next?"

Bottom line is, the Zeigarnik Effect and the principles underlying it are real, and real-world people and companies are using it every day. The more you understand how it works, the more you will be able to wield its power yourself, or "intercept" it when someone attempts to use it on you. It’s good to have more choice.

It’s really about understanding more about yourself, about how your own unconscious mind works "underneath the hood". Accept no substitutes…






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