The von Restorff Effect

The von Restorff Effect

Every minute of every day your brain is processing enormous amounts of information.

Most of this processing occurs at a subconscious level. This is a type of ‘filtering’ system to prevent the conscious brain from being overloaded.

Without it we would operate much like an old computer: slow and prone to crashing at random.

For information to make it past the ‘filter’ it needs to stick out.

The von Restoff effect is the phenomenon that states that when multiple similar-looking objects are presented, the one that is different from the rest is most likely to be remembered.

It is named after the psychologist Hedwig von Restorff and it sometimes referred to as the ‘isolation’ effect.

In 1933, von Restorff performed her famous experiment.

She gave participants a list of text which consisted of random sets of three letters interrupted by one set of three digits.

E.g. jrm, tws, als, huk, bnm, 153, fdy.

After a short delay the respondents were asked to recall the items.

The results demonstrated conclusively that the items that stood out (i.e. the three digits) were the ones that were most easily remembered.

This has implications for anyone who wants their product or brand to stand out. The one that is the most different from the rest is the one that is most likely to be top of mind.


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