Bljuma Wulfowna Zeigarnik

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Bluma Zeigarnik

Bljuma Wulfowna Zeigarnik (also Bluma or Zejgarnik ; Russian Блюма Вульфовна Зейгарник , scientific. Transliteration Bljuma Vul'fovna Zejgarnik * October 27 . Jul / 9. November  1901 greg. In Prienai , now Lithuania , † 24 February 1988 in Moscow ) was a Soviet Gestalt psychologist of Lithuanian origin.


Bluma Zeigarnik came from a Lithuanian-Jewish family. From the age of 12 to 15, she received private tuition at home because of severe meningitis. From 1916 she attended a Russian girls' high school in Minsk, where she graduated with honors in 1918. In order to be able to study at a university with this degree, she still has to pass a supplementary examination. In 1919 she married Albert Zeigarnik (1900–1940), whom she met in a library. From 1920 to 1922 she attended lectures at the Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of Kovno .

From 1922 to 1927 (until 1925 as a guest student) she studied at the University of Berlin with Max Wertheimer , Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Lewin, among others . In 1927 she did her doctorate in the field of gestalt psychological action theory according to Kurt Lewin ( keeping things done and unfinished ).

1927–1931 Zeigarnik was Lewin's employee. Her husband was transferred to the Soviet trade agency in Berlin, and during this time he also studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Charlottenburg.

In 1931 Zeigarnik returned to the Soviet Union at Moscow University, where she a. a. collaborates with the psychologists Lev Vygotsky and Alexander Luria . Subsequently, she mainly devotes herself to pathopsychology, in particular to thought disorders . Their son Juri was born in 1934 and their son Vladimir was born in 1939. Her grandson Andrey V. Zeigarnik published a biographical article on her life and work in 2007, in which the difficulties that Bluma Zeigarnik and her husband faced in the Stalin era are also discussed. In 1940 her husband fell victim to Stalinist repression. On charges of espionage for Germany, he was sentenced to ten years in a prison camp, from which he did not return.

From 1943–1950 and 1957–1967 Zeigarnik worked as head of a department at the Institute of Psychology in Moscow. In 1953 she became a professor and in 1967 she held her own chair at Lomonossow University in Moscow .


During her experiments in Berlin in the 1920s, Zeigarnik discovered that under certain conditions unfinished business is better retained than done ( Zeigarnik effect ). The causes are "residual tension" in the ability to remember and a failure to fulfill wishes. The technical jargon calls the Zeigarnik effect also “cliffhanger effect” (from English cliffhanger , literally: hanging on a cliff ), alluding to the stylistic device of interrupting a story at an exciting point (“unfinished”). The key phrase: "Unfinished business is better remembered than done business!" Is also called "interrupted tasks" in English. Zeigarnik's colleague Maria Ovsiankina demonstrated that projects, the implementation of which one is interrupted, also leave a much stronger compulsion to act (urge to resume the interrupted action) than when they are completed ( Ovsiankina effect ).

The Zeigarnik effect also plays a role in psychotherapeutic processes . It is assumed that memories activated in psychotherapy in many cases have to do with "unfinished business" from the past, the renewed work through and closure of which can contribute significantly to mental recovery. In particular, Gestalt therapy , Gestalt theory psychotherapy and success monitoring systematically use the effect.

Advertising uses it in (initially) unresolved spots or advertisements. For example, when E.ON was launched in Germany, it initially only put the logo on billboards without any additional information. Many of the TV soap operas are also designed in this way: storylines at the end of an episode remain open in order to leave the tormenting question of how the series will continue in the viewer - so that they switch on again for the next episode for inner satisfaction.


  • 1927: Keeping completed and unfinished business. Psychological research 9 , 1-85. electronic version (PDF; 5.1 MB)
  • 1961: Thinking disorders in psychiatric illnesses: an experimental psychological examination. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
  • 1965: The pathology of thinking. New York: Consultants Bureau Enterprises.
  • 1972: Experimental Abnormal Psychology. New York: Plenary Press.
  • 1980: Results and Perspectives in Pathopsychology. Journal of Psychology, 188 , 365-367.
  • 1984: Kurt Lewin and Soviet psychology. Journal of Social Issues 40 , 193.
  • 1984: Memories of Kurt Lewin. Group Dynamics, 15 (1), 103-110.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Zeigarnik, AV Bluma Zeigarnik: a memoir . Gestalt theory. 29, 256-68.
  2. ^ Andrey V. Zeigarnik (2007): Bluma Zeigarnik: A Memoir. Gestalt Theory - An International Multidisciplinary Journal, 29 (3/2007), 256-268.
  3. Bluma Zeigarnik on
  4. See Lindorfer & Stemberger (2012), Unfinished Business , under "Weblinks".