Peak-end Rule

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. So tap into empathy, end on a high and make people feel great about using your service.

Kahneman, D. (1999) Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology

1993 study provided groundbreaking evidence for the Peak-End rule. Participants were subjected to two different versions of a single unpleasant experience. The first trial had subjects submerge a hand in 14°C water for 60 seconds. The second trial had subjects submerge the other hand in 14°C water for 60 seconds, but then keep their hand submerged for an additional 30 seconds, during which the temperature was raised to 15°C.

Subjects were then offered the option of which trial to repeat. Curiously, subjects were more willing to repeat the second trial, despite a prolonged exposure to uncomfortable temperatures. It was concluded that subjects chose the long trial simply because they liked the memory of it better than the alternative (or disliked it less).

Takeaways for Decision-Makers

  1. Negative occurrences in any consumer interaction can be counteracted by establishing a firmly positive peak & end. This can be achieved in many ways, such as playing music that customers enjoy, giving out free samples, pro-active after-sales care via social media or paying a staff member to smile as they hold the shop door for customers as they leave.
  2. As Scott Stratten has suggested: A really great salesperson who helps with an exchange can erase negative experiences along the way. The long wait in line and the bad music in the changing room are forgotten”.
  3. Design empathic product experiences. If things go wrong, which they naturally do, whether through fault of the consumer or a failure of the product experience itself, allow flexibility, humility, and an opportunity to save the relationship.

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  • Aspirational membership schemes and belonging The category size bias provides a credible explanation for why we human beings tend to associate with large groups that are viewed favourably by society. Being part of a large and “desirable” social group can make others believe that we also possess the many qualities of its members. For small businesses, it suggests that forming or being a part of a consortium or large and high quality networking group can dramatically elevate your brand image.
  • Communicating category sizes to nudge effectively Highlighting the differences between the large and small categories is highly likely to enhance the effect of the Category Size Bias. For instance, for software companies, stating that there are 10 features in the premium version versus 4 in the free version will help nudge a decision towards the premium version

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  1. The findings from this braingem can nudge better healthcare choices, encourage consumption of a given product, and lead to more confident consumer decisions.
  2. We mistakenly believe that items in larger categories have a higher probability of being picked than ones in smaller categories, despite all items having an equal chance of being picked.
  3. We’ll spend or gamble more money on items put in larger categories.
  4. We’re more likely to take action from tasks when they’re in a bigger list, over a smaller list.
  5. We once we put something into a group, we perceive it to adopt all the characteristics of that group. This suggests that small companies should foster alliances with similarly-principled, more established companies.
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