Graeme Newell

Peak End Rule

Big corporations like Walmart don’t put greeters at the door just to be nice. People like Mr. Willie can powerfully influence a company’s profits because of a cognitive bias called the “Peak-End Rule.”

Brain science tells us there are two specific parts of an experience we tend to remember most vividly: the peak experience, and the end. So on that death-defying rollercoaster, we tend to remember the most exciting plunge and getting off the ride at the end.

So what’s the most painful moment of a shopping experience: the end, when we bitterly hand over our money. That’s why savvy companies like Walmart strategically place people like Mr. Willie at the store exit.

Now, the end experience isn’t losing money, it’s a friendly smile, a neighborly moment, and a “bam” from a wonderful man. Those friendly last moments tend to make customers forget the pain of paying.

IKEA uses the Peak-End Rule by strategically placing the food court next to the checkout. This assures the last experience in the store is a wonderful yummy treat.

The Peak-End Rule is the reason some mothers fondly remember childbirth. The actual experience is horribly painful, but it ends SPECTACULARLY, with a new baby and an amazing family moment.

Why do so many of us have a library of horror stories about past relationships? It’s because those relationships ENDED with a BREAKUP. The Peak-End Rule means we’ll tend to forget the loving moments and vividly recall the messy ending.

So if you want to remember your experiences with fond affection, then work hard to design a GREAT END.

-Don’t end that special night out with a long drive home through traffic. Instead, get that indulgent dessert TO GO. Then savor that last treat on your front porch under the stars.
-Come home from vacation a day early so your last day isn’t just the frustration of travel.
-End the employee performance review with a thank-you gift.
-Hand out the annual bonus checks at the end of the night during the company holiday party. Everyone will remember the party as the “best ever!”
-After a tough conversation with your sweetie, always end it with a warm affirmation of just how much your partner means to you.