The Von Restorff effect, also known as The Isolation Effect, predicts that when multiple similar objects are present, the one that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered.
- Make important information or key actions visually distinctive.
- Use restraint when placing emphasis on visual elements to avoid them competing with one another and to ensure salient items don’t get mistakenly identified as ads.
- Don’t exclude those with a color vision deficiency or low vision by relying exclusively on color to communicate contrast.
- Carefully consider users with motion sensitivity when using motion to communicate contrast.
The theory was coined by German psychiatrist and pediatrician Hedwig von Restorff (1906–1962), who, in her 1933 study, found 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.