Mar 062008

Play a very loud annoying sound for 10 seconds.  Then play the exact same 10 seconds, but add on 5 seconds of the sound growing softer and more pleasant.  Then ask someone which sound they prefer.  They’ll pick the second sound, even though it’s annoying for longer — it includes the exact 10 seconds of annoying, plus some.

Daniel Kahneman‘s “Peak-End Rule” states that people’s emotional remembrance of an event is based on the peaks (good and bad), and the end result.

Want another example?  Search Google for “kahneman AND colonoscopy”.

How does this impact your life?  When you give a speech, it’s better to have one really good joke instead of a string of so-so’s.  And don’t trail off into that’s all I have and um if you have any questions ….  End with a big punch.  Technical trainers have this down — it’s a good idea to end your followup with handing out the certificates, so you end on the highest note for attendees.  Because right after that, attendees fill out the course survey, and that helps determine whether or not the trainer keeps their job.

One high peak is better than a string of mid-peaks.  End whatever on a high note.  I was explaining this to someone on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, linked to an article on rethinking the computer progress bar, in which the peak-end rule figures.  I’ll have to add “eery prescience” to my list of superpowers, which also includes snoring, and interpreting bee dances.

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