Lately I’ve been talking a lot about the human brain and how it–well, how it screws with us a little. And today, I’m going to along that same vein with another gem from the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.
The book is mostly about how choice can overwhelm people (read my take on that here). But there was much more to it than that. One of the ideas he presents is this:
What we remember about our experiences is almost entirely dependent on just two aspects of the experience:
1. How it felt at the peak, and
2. How it felt at the end.
Schwartz gives lots of the research on this, of course. For instance, he cites a study in which people who held their hands in extremely cold water reported the experience to be more unpleasant if it ended at the same cold temperature it had been at all along, but less unpleasant if it did not end there, but continued for another several minutes at a slightly warmer temperature.
If you think about it, this has huge consequences for one’s personal fulfillment. When you go on vacation, for instance, do you seek out peak experiences and a great, happy last day? Or are you content to sit on the beach and read most of the time, then spend the last day in a harried rush to get home?
On my last vacation, I did the former. My husband and I braved the wild streets of Mexico on a sometimes-uncomfortable moped in order to seek out the best beaches in which to swim and snorkel.
And I’m not sure if this is true, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of those moments.
I saw a sea turtle, after all.
And a snake.
Those are the stories I told my friends about my trip, and though it wasn’t a perfect outing in every way–heck, it’s a great memory.