The Curious Mind

The Curious Mind Bliuma Zeigarnik, 1921. Public domain.

Bliuma Zeigarnik, 1921. Public domain.

The Zeigarnik effect

We often forget tasks we've successfully completed, yet unfinished matters persist in our minds until we address them. They nag us with persistent thoughts; for instance, in the middle of a performance, we may suddenly recall that we forgot to take out the trash. This inclination to prioritize the undone is known as the Zeigarnik effect, named after the young scientist from Prienai shtetl, Bliuma Zeigarnik, in 1927.

Bliuma was born in 1901 to a secular Jewish family. Her parents, Volf and Ronya Gerstein, ran a shop. Bliuma was an excellent student, although her childhood was not without challenges. She battled meningitis for four years, a disease that claimed many children's lives during that time. Throughout those years, she received treatment at home and had private lessons.

In 1922, Bliuma enrolled at the University of Berlin, marking the beginning of her remarkable scientific career.