Imagine sitting down at your desk one Monday morning and finding an untouched Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle waiting for you. A deadline looms. Although you have no time or intention to muddle through it, you do notice one clue for a 3-letter word: “NFL star Manning.”
But it’s a busy day and you feel no compulsion to attack the puzzle, so you simply smile, set the puzzle aside and move on with your day, without bothering to fill in the easy answer with “Eli.”
Now imagine the same scenario, but this time the entire puzzle has been completed—every answer to every clue —EXCEPT the 3-letter answer for “NFL Star Manning.”
If you feel compelled to pick up a pencil and complete the puzzle in this situation, despite the looming deadline, you have taken a very human action that human behavior scientists refer to as set completion.
“Finishing tasks that are incomplete gives us all a huge sense of satisfaction,” says Dr. Kiki Koutmeridou, Behavioral Science Strategist for DonorVoice. “Framing items as parts of a whole unit elicits a desire for completion and encourages effort and motivation, even in the absence of external rewards.”