Absence makes the mind grow sharper: Effects of element omission on subsequent recall

Jaideep Sengupta, Gerald Gorn

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The authors investigate the memorial consequences of deliberately omitting crucial elements from an advertisement. Research on the self-generation effect in cognitive psychology indicates that such element omission may actually lead to an improvement in recall. Support for this perspective is obtained in a series of experiments that explores the effects of feature omission in the context of both overt omission (in which the omission is highlighted by the advertiser) and implicit omission (in which the omission, though not highlighted in the advertisement, is noticed because of prior expectations for that ad type). Even under highly constrained processing conditions (e.g., exposure times as short as four seconds), an advertisement that omits a key element is shown to produce better recall than an equivalent advertisement that contains the element. The authors find that this recall improvement occurs along dimensions that are specifically related to the omitted element; therefore, leaving out an element related only to the product category (but not the brand) produces an improvement only in category recall, whereas brand recall is improved by the omission of an element related to the brand name. The authors discuss theoretical and managerial implications of these findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-201
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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