In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.

In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.

The Von Restorff effect

Also known as the Isolation effect, The Von Restorff effect is a psychological principle that that of a group of similar objects, the one that looks different from the rest is most likely to be remembered. This is one of the principles of psychology used by designers to enhance the user experience in different applications. Naturally, users place a different degree of value on an item based on whether it is placed in isolation, or next to other possible alternatives.

When should I use and why should I care?

You should use it in order to present or highlight any important information among a group of similar information.

This effect is important because it reduces the stress of otherwise going through different items to get to the important or most relevant detail. Even though we have impressive cognitive abilities we are still visual beings and a great amount of brain activity is spent on processing visual information.

One choice can be made to look more attractive by placing it next to an alternative which is a less desirable choice. Take the example of a pricing plan chart on websites.

This theory was the result of work done in 1933 by German psychiatrist Hedwig von Restorff (1906–1962). She discovered that when participants were presented with a list of categorically similar items with one distinctive, isolated item on the list, memory for the item was improved.

While making this, try not to forget, when you force a user to focus on certain parts of your user interface, if you end up with making many different shapes or colors, they can be easily distracted with the noise. Maintaining a balance is the key to make cleaner interfaces with correct emphasis on relevant elements. When you use too many distinctive elements, you’ll end up creating a messy UI which generates too much cognitive load on the user.


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