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


Peak-end rule
Sometimes it’s the highs that matter not the lows


In a 1993 study 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. Surprisingly, subjects were more willing to repeat the second trial, even though this trial had increased exposure to uncomfortable temperatures. The researchers concluded that subjects preferred the longer trial simply because they liked the memory of it better than the alternative (or disliked it less).


This is not a one of study. Redelmeier and Kahneman (1996) similarly found that patients rated colonoscopies as less unpleasant if an interval of mild pain was added to the end of the procedure. Schreiber and Kahneman (2000) further showed that ratings of unpleasant loud sounds exhibited clear peak–end effects. Fredrickson (2000) reviewed a large number of experiments supporting the peak-end rule. Multiple studies showed that dazzling result that conditions can readily be designed in which people prefer and choose a condition with objectively more suffering as long as the experience ends on a comparatively less painful or more pleasurable note.


How can you use peak-end rule?

1. Negative occurrences can be countered by establishing a firmly positive peak & endThis can be achieved in many ways, such as playing a video or music that customers enjoy, giving out free samples, or using proactive strategies using social media to present a caring brand image

2. Ending difficult tasks with a reward: Difficult tasks such as filling up a form or survey could be followed by a reward attached to it. Or maybe if someone has to pay for repairs it could be that adding a small freebie will ensure that the whole experience.



Further Reading

When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End PDF (Kahneman, Fredrickson, Schreiber & Redelmeier, 1993)

Evaluations of pleasurable experiences: The peak–end rule PDF (Do, Rupert & Wolford, 2008)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *