Rapid Rhetoric: ZEIGARNIK

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

zeigarnik (ZAYE-gahr-nick) n. a psychological tendency to remember an uncompleted task instead of a completed task.

The Zeigarnik effect is named for Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, who first described this psychological phenomenon in a 1927 doctoral thesis. Zeigarnik observed that restaurant servers tend to remember a patron's order only as long as the order is being processed, and that they quickly forget what a customer ordered after the meal has been served. Zeigarnik's work has significant applications to the study of short-term memory, and if my own memory had not started its middle-aged entry into forgetfullness, I might have been able to supply some sage observations from my many years in the restaurant business. Maybe a dose of BSN Cell Mass is in order.

A blogger with the pseudonym Mr. Article Marketing suggested that the Zeigarnik effect can be used in writing blog posts. His ideas also resonate with some writing tricks I have learned over the years, including the use of effective hooks and the inclusion of rhetoric that encourages the reader to anticipate what lies ahead.

In my own life I know that the Zeigarnik effect is part of my daily life, but I suspect that this has much to do with latent obsessive-compulsive tendencies. If I have unfinished business - especially things like dirty dishes or a trash can that needs to be emptied - it is difficult for me to concentrate on more important tasks.

There: I just proved I am not an OCD personality, since I did not argue that clean dishes and an empty trash can are the most important tasks of the day.