How to use Zeigarnik Effect in Design?

Sonal Choudhary
Published in
3 min readMay 15, 2020


Imagine you get a call for a job interview! The job profile is good, it is meeting your requirements, and the salary is also good. You sit for the interview and it goes amazing. The interviewer informs you that he will revert within two to three days.

It is about a week now, but you haven’t heard from him. What will be your response?

You may be eagerly waiting for the call, and this may create some cognitive tension within you.This eagerness in psychology is called the Zeigarnik effect, where the brain remembers unfinished or interrupted tasks better than finished ones. This is because our mind seeks closure.

This effect was named after a Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. She
once visited a restaurant with her friends and was surprised by a waiter’s superhuman memory. The waiter could recall all the orders without writing them down. A few minutes later when Bluma went to the restaurant again
to collect her purse, which she had forgotten there, the waiter was unable to recognize her. She found this behaviour to be strange and thought of conducting experiments on it. Later her experiment on this behaviour came
to be known as the Zeigarnik Effect.

Key Steps to Apply Zeigarnik Effect in Design

The Zeigarnik effect is used to grab the attention of the users in different ways. It also enables the users to pursue the product or service. Let’s see what are the key steps:

1. Draw attention: One can draw the attention of the users with different ways and techniques of design and can interest them towards the task.

2. Ask for participation: One can ask the users for their willing participation by creating a sense of curiosity and by showing what’s in it for them.

3. Introduce interruption: Introduce a certain amount of interruption for cognitive tension. These interruption should be designed thoughtfully to help the users to get motivated to pursue the product or service and not to get annoyed by the interruption to lose the interest.

4. Ask comeback for completion: Ask users to complete the task by nudging them in right direction.

Lets see how the Zeigarnik effect is used:

  1. Digital writing tools shows how many issues you have in your writing and you can overcome it by going premium.
Screen showing premium alert
Example- Grammarly

2. Media uses it by creating cliff-hangers and trailers with open-ended endings.

Popcorn break digital poster
Example- “Why did Kattapa killed Bahubali?” from the movie Bahubali

3. Games introduces in-app purchases while you are in the middle of the game crises with no chances left.

Screen showing no lives left and you can purchase lives
Example- Candy Crush

This effect is also used for personal growth. If applied intentionally and wisely, it helps to determine the task completion by avoiding procrastination.

To conclude, this effect can help to design solution for businesses and will give meaning to the design.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to become an expert in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic, then consider to take an online UX course from the Interaction Design Foundation. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research — Methods and Best Practices. Good luck on your learning journey!



Sonal Choudhary

UX Designer | Explorer | Artist

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