Creativity, Design and Making

The Von Restorff Effect ~ Making things stand-out from the background

The Von Restorff effect was identified by Hedwig von Restorff in 1933. She conducted a set of memory experiments around isolated and distinctive items, concluding that an isolated item, in a list of otherwise similar items, would be better remembered than an item in the same relative position in a list where all items were similar.

There can also be a reverse effect here. You remember the unique item, but the attention that it grabs from you is removed from other items — thus you may in fact remember less overall.

Hedwig’s work relates to Gestalt, where she related it to the Figure and Ground principles.

Taylor & Fiske, {1978} indicated that attention is usually captured by salient, novel, surprising, or distinctive stimuli. These may be used to enhance the von Restorff effect.

In the ‘attention age’, when the plethora of media around us is constantly battling for a moment of our time, advertisers make much use of this principle, each vying with the other to stand out from the crowd and hence be remembered by the target audience. Interestingly there is a current TV add for a car. The add shows the car in the modern city which is full of adverts and signs and hoardings. How does it stand out against its background. (I will find a link to the advert)

The Von Restorff effect is also called the Isolation Effect or the Distinctiveness Principle (Nelson, 1979). The same principle has also been described as prominence effects (Gardner, 1983) environmental salience effects (Taylor & Fiske, 1978), and novel popout effect (Johnson, Hawley, Plewe, Elliott, & De Witt, 1990).

Some of this information taken from:

If you have a list to learn for an exam then write out the list and add things, images are good, to each item that are associated but memorable. This will help the items in the list prominent in your memory. Tony Buzan (the inventor of Mind Mapping) suggests that if you make learning playful and have fun by using your memory in different ways then you will be amazed at what you can remember.

Tony says that one of the easiest ways to remember is through VISUALIZATION and IMAGERY. The reason that this works is because it uses the right side of the brain together with the left thus using the whole brain = max power!

If you have a vivid image of something then you will find it easier to remember and recall. Let your brain use its creative assocaitions through ridiculous, humorous, outrageous or shocking images, then you brain is more likely to remember it.


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