Today, there is a lot of evidence that people remember the tasks they fail to complete better than the tasks they complete. This is known as the Zeigarnik effect. Bluma Zeigarnik asked participants in her experiment to do about 20 tasks, such as work a puzzle, make a clay figure, and construct a box from cardboard.9 For each participant, half the tasks were interrupted before completion. Later, when the participants were asked to recall the tasks they worked on, they listed more of the interrupted tasks (average about 7) than the completed tasks (about 4). One good question to start with is, “Did interrupting make a big difference or a small difference?” In this case, interruption produced about three additional memory items compared to the completion condition. This is a 75% difference, which seems like a big change, given our experience with tests of memory. The question of “How big is the difference?” can often be answered by calculating an effect size index.
we can’t conclude that interruption improves memory yet, you could conduct the experiment again but that would be more expensive. but we can use inferential statistics like NHST
NHST begins with the actual data from the experiment. It ends with a probability—the probability of obtaining data like those actually obtained if it is true that interruption has no effect on memory. If the probability of getting the same result is very small, you can conclude that interruption does affect memory. For Zeigarnik’s data, the probability was tiny. Now for the conclusion. One version might be, “After completing about 20 tasks, memory for interrupted tasks (average about 7) was greater than memory for completed tasks (average about 4). The approximate 75% difference cannot be attributed to chance because chance by itself would rarely produce a difference between two samples as large as this one.”