B.E. For Dogs: Peak-End Rule

B.E. for Dogs is a bi-weekly comic series that will examine concepts in behavioral economics from the perspective of our canine companions. Look out for new comics every other week!

The series is created by Matt TrowerCatherine Berman, and Jamie Foehl.

Peak-End Rule: How do we evaluate our experiences? Research suggests that our memory of our experiences is based on our memories of the last part of the experience (the end) and the most extreme part of the experience (the peak). This idea is referred to as the “Peak End Rule.”

Let’s consider the two dogs in the comic. At the end of the walk, the blue dog remarked that the walk was amazing. The red dog, on the other hand, is tired. Both dogs had walks with one low, one moderate and one high intensity section. So, what gives? Why do the dogs have different memories of the walk?

Think about the Peak-End Rule. Compare the experiences of the two dogs. When was the peak of their respective walks (HINT: the high intensity part). How did their respective walks end? The Blue dog ended the walk at lower intensity. Therefore his memory of the walk will be more pleasant.

The Peak-End Rule has been studied in numerous contexts, including exercise. A study published in 2017 by our colleagues Zachary Zenko, Panteleimon Ekkekakis, and Dan Ariely showed that adults who completed an exercise session where the intensity decreased over time felt more pleasant, had better memories of the session and predicted the next exercise session would be more enjoyable.