The peak-end rule for rating past experiences


When people remember their feelings from a past experience (pain for a medical procedure, frustration when shopping online, etc.), they do so by:

  • remembering their experience at the peak, that is at the most intense point of their experience
  • remembering their experience at the end
  • neglecting to take into account the total duration of their experience

This heuristic is well documented and quite robust. It was first established in a medical setting1, but then extended. You can also find a discussion of it in Kahneman’s book2

Some notes

  • in its simplest form, that means you can influence how a customer remembers an interaction (positively or negatively) by focusing on the most intense point of the interaction and on its end. Obviously, a positive peak point is the ideal, but if it s a negative, this can be offset to an extent by a positive end.
  • the peak of a customer interaction is often dictated by its structure and not easily adjustable. The end is often more amenable to modification and is thus a great target for behavior orchestration.
  1. Redelmeier, Donald A; Kahneman, Daniel (1996). “Patients’ memories of painful medical treatments: real-time and retrospective evaluations of two minimally invasive procedures”. Pain 66 (1): 3–8.doi:10.1016/0304-3959(96)02994-6
  2.  Daniel Kahneman; Thinking, Fast and Slow; 2011; Amazon link