Closure : Why Is It Important?

By Pallavi Sahu

You are completely engrossed in watching a movie and to your disappointment; you are left with abrupt end to deal with. Do you find abrupt end of a movie enjoyable? As for me, I am not fond of movies with abrupt tone in the end. What I am left with is an unfinished story to ruminate upon. My thoughts don’t permit me to rest until my brain creates a dramatic version of the abrupt end, to bring closure.

Psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik, founder of Zeigarnik Effect theorized that human mind hates unfinished tasks. The Zeigarnik Effect is a psychological phenomenon that states that people tend to remember unfinished or incomplete task better than completed tasks. It is interesting to know how she came up with a novel thought to do series of experiment after experiment. One of her visits to a restaurant prompted her to find the reason behind what she observed. While dining at a restaurant, long back in 1920s,she noticed waiters were able to keep track of complex orders and unpaid bills simultaneously till orders were filled and unpaid bills were cleared. She also noticed that waiters were unable to recall detailed information about orders once bills were cleared. This observation intrigued her to investigate further.

Phenomenon of Zeigarnik Effect in force

The Zeigarnik Effect occurs when interrupted activity may be readily recalled. People remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. It is in force when movie ends abruptly, leaving audience in suspense or may be in shock, when TV shows ends leaving you hanging, along with unfinished story until next episode, when teacher leaves the class by posing perplexing question to ponder on till next class, when relationship ends suddenly without proper closure. Unfinished task incite psychic tension in you, which acts as a persuasive motivating force to complete the task. Brain is constantly reminded of the unfinished task until you complete the task. As soon as task is accomplished, tension is alleviated.


Can we apply knowledge of Zeigarnik Effect in our everyday lives? Yes, we can, if we consider few very useful implications to our advantage-

The Zeigarnik effect results in stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and mental and emotional depletion, in case ,we leave an important task incomplete. It keeps lingering in our mind till we give closure to the task.

On the other hand, the Zeigarnik effect can improve mental health by providing the motivation needed to finish tasks. And completing a task can give an individual a sense of accomplishment and promote self-esteem and self-confidence. Completing stressful tasks, in particular, can lead to a feeling of closure that can improve psychological well-being.

The effect is especially well suited for helping overcoming procrastination. We often push the challenging task for later. However, the Zeigarnik effect suggests that the key to overcoming procrastination is to just get started. Take small steps towards the set task. Unfinished task drains our psychological energy by reminding us constantly about the task, at hand. It’s an uncomfortable feeling that will drive us to complete the task, to help us maintain our equilibrium.

The Zeigarnik effect can also be useful for students who are studying for exams. The effect tells us that breaking up study sessions can actually improve recall. So instead of studying for an exam all in one sitting, breaks should be scheduled in which the student focuses on something else. This will cause intrusive thoughts about the information that must be remembered. It will enable the student to rehearse and consolidate the study material, leading to better recall when they take the exam.

This article of mine was first published in International Journal of Science and Research, titled,’ Zeigarnik Effect and Its Implications in Our Day to Day Lives.

Few links for further reading:

Thank you so much for your time and patience. If you enjoyed reading my post, please like, follow, share and comment & thanks again for visiting my page. You can also find me at pausementalwellnessstudio(facebook page),Instagram, linkedin, twitter and quora

Best wishes,

Pallavi Sahu,Psychologist

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4 thoughts on “Closure : Why Is It Important?

  1. I am glad to know that you liked it, as knowledge sharing is one of my aim of creating this platform, along with providing professional help through counselling services.


  2. Pingback: Unwelcome Call from a Stanger – PAUSE

  3. Pingback: Why Do I Write? – Pause

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