The Von Restorff Effect

Today, we're going to talk about the von Restorff effect, a fascinating psychological concept that states that we remember the things that stand out the most.
The Von Restorff Effect

Last update: 06 April, 2019

The von Restorff effect is our natural tendency to remember things that stand out from the rest. This is why some people call it “the isolation effect”. It was discovered in 1933 by Hedwig von Restorff, whose research led him to the conclusion that it’s easier for us to remember things that stand out for their color or position. 

At the time, people thought this was just a peculiarity of our human attention span. Von Restorff’s findings were interpreted in different ways over the years. It took people a while to realize that it wasn’t a question of attention span. Our memory actually encodes information differently.

The von Restorff effect in everyday life

You can take advantage of the von Restorff effect in your everyday life. For example, if you’re making a shopping list, you can highlight the things you need most. Doing that guarantees that your brain will focus on those specific things, making you more likely to remember them.

A person highlighting notes on a piece of paper.

Another good example is highlighting things you need to remember for a test to make them stand out in your mind. That helps you memorize them, and, of course, also helps you spot the important parts when you’re studying later on.

Thus, you can use the von Restorff effect to your benefit in the everyday world. This is just as true for errands as it is for your work and school lives. You could even use it in business, especially when it comes to making outlines of certain projects or tasks.

The von Restorff effect in advertisement

This effect also has major implications for the worlds of advertisement and marketing. Lots of companies pick out specific details to highlight to make a product stand out and be memorable. Changing size, color, and shape are very common techniques. The more the object stands out, the more likely it is that people will remember it.

This has been a big part of the development of neuromarketing. This new marketing trend states that  companies should use subtle techniques to get their customers’ attention. The goal is to appeal to each customer’s most instinctive desires and use small details to make their product stand out from the crowd.

Using the von Restorff effect in a presentation

You can also take advantage of this effect in academic or professional presentations. Adding unexpected things to your presentation will make it stand out and be memorable. There are tons of ways to do this, like using videos and other multimedia tools. They’ll make both the presentation and the presenter more memorable.

A woman doing a presentation for a small group of people in a spacious building.

For example, putting videos and movie clips into a presentation can illustrate an idea much more clearly than a single image or GIFT he video sequences should be short and fit with the overall idea of your presentation. Otherwise, it’ll divert the audience’s attention away from you. Thus, you should maximize their attention with short, spaced out videos.

If you apply these ideas to your next presentation, you’ll boost your chances of success. This also applies to the academic world. Knowing how to grab the attention of the people evaluating you will give you a chance to highlight the most important ideas and keep the content organized and concrete.

If you learn to use it, the von Restorff effect can be a priceless tool in just about any part of your life. It can help boost your memory and public speaking abilities, so start using it in your notes, grocery lists, and presentations!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.