The red chair and peak end rule


Whenever you’re working on a project that aims to encourage users to change their behaviour in some way, one of the main principles you can draw upon is ‘Peak End Rule’. It’s the idea that a user is more likely to have a positive feeling about an experience, and therefore be more open to repeating it, if their memory of the end of that experience is positive.

Daniel Kahneman gave an excellent talk at TED back in 2010 that exposed a lot of people to this principle. Unfortunately the example of the ‘colonoscopy’ isn’t always appropriate when talking to clients about an experience under their control.

The other thing is that just talking about Peak End Rule can over simplify the work that goes into making an end-to-end experience more positive. I was really glad to see Adaptive Path’s recent write up of a number of different approaches to problem solving a complex journey, where they identify a lot of different approaches to the peaks and troughs you might uncover

But here’s a good Peak End Rule example from popular culture; Graham Norton’s Red Chair.

Graham Norton's Red Chair

What I love about the red chair is that it doesn’t matter who has been on the show, how many awkward moments there have been between the stars, or which awful band was on. The mix of tension, ‘cringeworthyness’, jeopardy and hilarity baked into the red chair segment means that by the end of the show the audience has been whipped into an emotional frenzy, and will favourably remember the show until next week.

It’s something that seems so obvious in television, from the gags at the end of Columbo to the finale songs in Glee. So I wonder if that’s a helpful metaphor to use when explaining approaches in digital.

Posted in Connected Experience, Ideas, Television
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