Today, I wanted to write a bit about two particular psychological effects that will be a hugely useful technique in mix and sound design. Its called the Zeigarnik and Ovsiankina effect.

Zeigarnik and Ovsiankina

The Zeigarnik and Ovsiankina Effect

Basically the Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Discovered by a Russian psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik, this was a very interesting discovery that a waiter remembers the orders that haven’t been paid for better than the ones he has been. Its the same for us too right? I tend to forget answers immediately after the exam! But remember the ones I left out. The Ovsiankina effect on the other hand states that if we interrupt a task at a given time, it will have a tendency to be resumed at the earliest opportunity. So how are these two rather abstract psychological things, useful in our world?

Incomplete Pitch

One thing that is always within us is that we look for completion. Anything that rises in pitch or frequency will require us to have a full stop. I have been long trying to understand the relation on why some chords are really happy and some sad or emotional. The truth is we can never perceive a musical note as a set of frequencies. We are dependent on emotionally quantifying it. Thats one of the reasons why a suspended chord sounds incomplete as we want to resolve the dissonance in our minds. This is also how an question is framed. Any question will always end with the end of the sentence going up in pitch. Psychologically, we would be forced to bring it into a resolution and hence answer it with a statement that would be neutral or fall down in pitch at the end. This can be used in a lot of design and mix.

Getting design elements to rise higher in pitch or frequency spectrum will force an incompleteness or an urge to resolution in the audience’s mind. This increases tension and can be effective used in sequences. Gunfires or chase sequences work very well if this principle is used and the beauty is it works without the need for levels.

Sudden Stop

This is an offspring from the Ovsiankina effect. Basically the idea is to stop and break a routine where it is least expected. I usually have done this in mixes where music stops or the effects are lowered quickly and then bought back. This also helps shift focus and when we come back we dont consciously realise a disconnect or the fact that we removed those sounds.

Well, my 2 cents for the day.