We’ve all probably experienced it at least once in recent weeks. A serious meeting, a dense atmosphere, challenging conversations, difficult decisions, all participants solemn against the necessary background of must-have books. And when the call ends, suddenly all of them are 10-year-olds, vigorously waving goodbye, repeating the farewell, and cautious about answering to every “bye”. Have you ever wondered why we do fall into this, friendy, but also quite child-like behaviour? If so, get ready for the explanation!
This behaviour is the result of our rapid adaptation to the new reality and an attempt to replace the direct contact that does not occur during the video call. A new, clear ending of the meeting is necessary in a situation when previously learnt behaviours are no longer useful. You can’t stand up after the meeting to show “the time is up”. You can’t close your notebook or laptop; you can’t reach for your purse, glance at your watch or order a taxi. Therefore, we subconsciously look for new solutions, such as cheerful waving goodbye to everyone. The issue of culture is not without significance – it is rude to leave without a word.
However, the question is – why do we need to end meetings formally? The issue of good manners is not enough. Knowledge of neuroscience and behavioural psychology comes to rescue; our brain stores completed tasks or experiences differently from those unfinished. These, according to our brain, should have some continuity, or a point when the completion occurs, i.e. start the process of conceptual closure and modify the placement of memory in our mind. In a word, subconsciously, we strive to formally end the meeting so that our brain stops losing the energy necessary to keep related information in short-term memory. At the appropriate signal, the dose of data disappears from one register, entering into the so-called LTM (long-term memory). All this is called the “waiter’s memory effect” – as Bluma Zeigarnik’s experiments have shown, employees in this industry remember their customers until they … pay the bill. After such “closing”, the memory of them quickly disappears, paving the way for other guests. We can use this observation in many ways. Suffice it to say that this mechanism drives the TV series popularity and “binge-watching”, but also students apply it when learning. They remember the material better, preventing the brain from transferring it to LTM, from where it is more difficult to access during the exam.