Peak End Rule

One of her sketches

So, recently a girl was so impressed by this site, and the insights, that she regretted not coming across it earlier, would have saved a lot of her precious time. She even went on to compare my writing to that of the protagonist of the TV series ‘Sex and the City’, Carrie Bradshaw. I hadn’t seen the series and ended up at her place to watch it together over drinks.

Her room had the perfect ambiance and lightning. That combined with her ethereal sketches, cute Harry Potter tattoos, and the wide array of drinks was exactly what I needed to get out of my recent low. We skipped the TV series and ended up listening to some soulful music. She is one of the few people with a similar dark and heartfelt playlist to mine. I could see a part of my iconoclastic self in her and didn’t even realize when the night passed away in her company.

Anyway, coming to the MBA concept of the ‘Peak End Rule‘. It is a psychological tool that explains how people remember experiences in their lives. Instead of considering the average or sum of total experience, Peak-End Rule says that we remember the highest or lowest points of an experience and how it concluded.

Behavioral Economists Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Frederickson in their 1993 study found that human memory is rarely a perfectly accurate record of events. We remember experiences in our lives as a series of snapshots rather than a complete catalog of events.

Telecommunications company AT&T typically operates busy stores. What AT&T figured out, was that implementing a system to help customers visualize the line queue eliminated a lot of anxiety and frustration. AT&T employee greets you upon arrival and puts you into the queue, which you can plainly see on displays throughout the store. This gives you the freedom to roam the store or sit and relax knowing exactly when you’ll be served. The change here wasn’t the digital display as much as it was the behavior that AT&T changed to enhance the customer experience. Greeting and acknowledging customers as they come into the store is the real key. Through research, AT&T was able to prove that a customer considered his or her experience markedly improved thanks to this one tiny tweak: speaking to a customer when they came through the door. At the end of their transaction, AT&T also makes sure that employees walk customers through the store and shake their hands, a clear attempt at influencing the Peak-End Rule.

Think about the last time you went on vacation. What do you remember?

Perhaps you remembered a beautiful view from the top of a mountain. Maybe a morning on the beach with your family. You might also have pictured the moment when you thought of losing your passport.

Whether the memories were happy or miserable, your overall impression of your last vacation likely featured a few particularly strong moments.

Experiences are mostly judged by their end or peaks. We judge an experience by its most intense point and its end, as opposed to the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.

The Peak End rule can be applied in the context of modern-day dating. Have you ever had a relationship that ended terribly? You probably remember it in a negative light, but that might have a lot more to do with the way it ended than with the relationship itself.

If planning a vacation with your partner, an intense adventure-filled day trip full of high-intensity bursts of excitement (dopamine) may make as many positive memories as a week away at some far-off exotic destination with less to do.

My experiences with relationships might have been negligible but my memory of the dating encounters mostly just have a peak and an end. To the extent that in numerous memories I don’t even remember the name of the girl. Like from the ‘elevator pitch’, I still remember matching the beats of that ten-minute long song with the teacher, or from ‘lead time’ I still remember the expression on that Uber driver’s face, or from ‘experience economy’ I remember her dropping me off to my place at the end of the date.

You can put the insights when planning a date. Tap into empathy, end on a high, and make your date feel great about the experience. Studies show we remember moments of intense pleasure, even if those moments are sparse, more fondly than experiences where we are mildly comfortable throughout. You need to get high positive peaks in your interactions with a date. Including fun, spontaneity, and surprises in interactions to fuel up dopamine in the matrix is one of the best ways to create these positive peaks. Reserve the best and most fun moments towards the end of the event so that both of you walk away with warm fuzzy feelings.

Most importantly, you need to remember that people remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones. Moments of confusion and frustration also act as “peaks” in the peak-end rule — they are emotionally charged and have a substantial effect on the impression that the person will later recall.

That brings me to the ‘Sex and the City’ reference girl. So is this it? Have I finally found the rendition of my dark songs? Is my iconoclastic reflection finally in my life?

Well, in the morning while I was leaving, her washroom door got auto-locked from inside and the memory of the interaction took a turn for the worse towards the end. That combined with incompatibility in the bottom two quadrants of KF4D and lack of positive peaks, made the memory lackadaisical. Although, that night with her beautiful sketches and Harry Potter tattoos would definitely imprint the positive peaks of the encounter in my memory for quite some time.



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