NLP for people who like to think for themselves

The Zeigarnik Effect and unfinished business

One of the things you learn in NLP presentation skills trainings is the value of ‘open loops’ in which a topic is briefly explored and then left hanging while the focus moves on to something else – only to be returned to later.

‘Open loops’ is, in essence, one application of the Zeigarnik Effect which states that unfinished tasks are remembered better that finished ones.

So on a training programme skilful and judicious use of open loops means we can cram a lot more learning into a given amount of time – and achieve better retention of the material. Retention can be increased by as much as 90% in adults according to the Zeigarnik Effect paper which Lithuanian-born Bluma Zeigarnik published in 1927.

The down-side of this phenomenon is that it can be the cause of much stress and emotional unease – something which is explored in the early April issue of the Pegasus NLP Newsletter – because the amount of multi-tasking demanded by our daily lives ensures there are always lots of unfinished issues to prevent us from switching off and enjoying recreation time.

  1. Graham on 7th April 2008 at 12:31 PM

    Dear Reg,
    For some reason the comments on the Shaky Markets entry are not working and since this entry is about unfinished business, I’ll have to leave my comment here.
    I am disappointed by your contention that The Government is a nominalisation. My understanding was that a nominalisation was something you could not put into a wheelbarrow.
    Let me explain further. I have a rather inactive compost heap at the bottom of my garden. The problem seems to be that the material is still far too robust and has not yet broken down into that evil-smelling manure-like mess that one associates with good compost. I was quite sure that I might be able to load The Goverment into my wheelbarrow, albeit little by little, take it to the bottom of the garden, add it to the heap, and in no time I would have the desired outcome. Now you are telling me that this is not possible.
    Looking on the bright side, I infer from your definition that if I were to choose a single member of The Government then that would be OK. Well, I read somewhere that NLP was all about choices and I suppose that is the point you are making.


  2. nlpguru on 27th May 2008 at 6:38 PM

    Its history that Zeigarnik got the idea while she was observing a the waiter at a hotel had better recollections of still unpaid orders. The effect have good implications like students who wish to remember material better should leave learning unfinished when taking breaks.