According to the peak-end rule, our memory of past experience (pleasant or unpleasant) does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but to the most extreme point and the end of the episode (Kahneman, 2000b). The rule developed from the finding that evaluations of a past episode seem to be determined by a weighted average of ‘snapshots’ of an experience, such as moments in a film, thus neglecting its actual duration (Fredrickson & Kahneman, 1993), as well research showing that people would prefer to repeat a painful experience if it is followed by a slightly less painful one (Kahneman et al., 1993). In terms of memories, remembered utility is more important than total utility (Kahneman, 2000a). People’s memories of prototypical moments are related to the judgments made when people apply a representativeness heuristic (Kahneman, 2000b).

 

Fredrickson, B. L., & Kahneman, D. (1993). Duration neglect in retrospective evaluations of affective episodes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(1), 45-55.

Kahneman, D. (2000a). Experienced utility and objective happiness: A moment-based approach. In D. Kahneman & A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, values, and frames (pp. 673–692). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kahneman, D. (2000b). Evaluation by moments: Past and future. In D. Kahneman & A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, values, and frames (pp. 693–708). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kahneman, D., Fredrickson, B. L., Schreiber, C. A., & Redelmeier, D. A. (1993). When more pain is preferred to less: Adding a better end. Psychological Science, 4(6), 401-405.