Peak-End Rule

When you leave a movie, when you finish watching a talk, maybe even after a meeting, do you give that a little rating to yourself? “That was great”, “I wouldn’t do that again” or “what a waste of time”.

I recently heard about this from a podcast. It can help you tailor your speeches, videos, articles or anything you do that is meant to be consumed or observed by others. It’s called the Peak-End Rule:

The Peak End Rule


Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that we best remember and categorize experiences by using two qualities: how the experience felt at it’s peak (best or worst) and how they felt at the end. This Peak-End Rule can then be used to summarize or categorize how the experience affected us later.

I understand this best in the context of a movie. For some reason, after finishing a movie, I feel the need to lean over to my wife and immediately grade it. I don’t mean A to F, but I want to see if my sense matches hers in that we loved it, liked it or hated it.

It’s impossible to remember every minute of a movie, and it’s even harder to grade each minute, so you need to reduce your scope down to something more manageable. What do you remember? The end is obviously the most memorable because it was the most recent and it probably closed the story loop for you.

What else do you remember? Anything else… well, the part where I was crying my eyes out when the puppy was dying of terminal cancer was memorable, I will never forget that. I¬†didn’t know that I was¬†remembering the emotional peak, but I was. And now, I will most likely notice that when I watch, read or listen to something in the future.

How can this be useful to you?

In short, if you are creating something, be sure to throw in a high emotional peak. Make them laugh, cry or angry in any way possible and make it stick. Then, as you are concluding, be sure to make it sing at the end; don’t stop flat, be sure to leave them with a takeaway, something clever or useful they can walk away with.

When you write a speech, people always suggest that starting strong is the most important. And it is. But the conclusion is so often overlooked in comparison. A strong start is long forgotten 10 minutes into a speech and the speaker wraps up without any clear takeaway or call-to-action.

Movies can be made or broken during the ending. Some directors give alternate endings because they are so torn on how to finish out a story.

Give value, create great experiences and give them something to walk away with and you will have success.


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