Let’s say you go into a candle store. The candle shop is stacked with all of the usual flavors with pleasant scents. It’s only candles - except for one, random blender that is also for sale.
When you leave the candle store, what are you likely to remember? Will you be able to recall a list of the different pleasant scents that you sniffed in the store - or are you more likely to remember that random blender that stood out amongst the candles.
For many reasons, you’re most likely to remember the blender. It’s unique. It’s different. It completely takes your mind off of the pleasant-smelling candles in the store.
This is the Von Restorff Effect in action. In this video, we’ll talk about the Von Restorff Effect, how you already use it, and how it can affect your ability to remember things.
What Is The Von Restorff Effect?
The Von Restorff Effect is also known as the “isolation effect.” The isolated piece of information or incident is more likely to be recalled than an event that blends into the background.
In 1933, a German psychiatrist named Hedwig Von Restorff conducted experiments on memory. She discovered that when participants were given a list of generally homogenous words to remember, and one very distinctive word, they were more likely to remember the distinctive word.
Why? Our focus and attention plays a big part. One of the most well-known images that describes the Von Restorff Effect is a photo of tomatoes. All of the tomatoes are green, except for one blaringly red tomato in the middle of the photo. Even if you don’t see the photo, it’s not hard to imagine that your eyes and your focus goes directly to the red tomato.
In other videos, we have talked about the importance of paying attention to information that we are going to remember. When you see a word that stands out from other words or an object that stand out from other objects, that is where you are going to point your focus. And the process of making a strong memory begins.
Examples of Von Restorff Effect
There are a lot of ways for the Von Restorff Effect to kick in. You probably already take advantage of this effect without knowing it!
Have you ever highlighted information in a book? That’s one way you can use the isolation effect to your advantage! The words on the page that have green highlighter on them are more likely to stick in your mind than the words that are just on the page without any sort of special marking.
Designers and content creators use this effect all the time to help sell products and build memorable websites.
Bolded text, italic text, and text in different colors and fonts stand out. If there are certain messages that need to reach customers, the best way to make that happen is to recruit the Von Restorff Effect and isolate those messages away from the rest of the text.
The Isolation Effect Is More Than Meets The Eye
Isolated sounds or tones of voice may also stick out enough to be more memorable. If you try a different selection of cheeses on a cheese plate, accompanied by one type of meat, you’re more likely to remember the taste of the meat. The Von Restorff Effect is not limited to just one sense or type of stimuli.
Use It With Caution
The isolation effect may have an adverse effect on memory. While the isolated piece of information is more likely to be remembered, the rest of the information is more likely to be forgotten. If you are trying to remember a set of information, think about what pieces stick out the most and what pieces are most important to remember.