Experiences are less important than remembered experiences around the time of decision.
In the middle of yoga class, I die. Sweats pours off me in unbroken streams and I force myself to keep going and going. Some teachers make the class work harder than others. But in the middle of class is NOT when I’m deciding whether I will go again. The point at which someone decides whether they will do yoga again is two or three days later.
This is incredibly important for two reasons. The first is that after two or three days, you don’t remember how hard the class was. You do remember the beneficial results that have occurred in your body since the class. Second, yoga has this fun thing at the end of class where you just lie on your back like a dead dude and do nothing at all for 5 minutes or so. So if you remember the colonoscopy experience research done by Dan Ariely, you’ll know why this is important. If you haven’t, read the next paragraph.
Basically he gave guys getting a colonoscopy a mechanism that allowed them to report how crappy (pun… intended) it felt on a scale of 1-10. Now you’d think that as time passes, the area under the curve (well, more of a spiky line that peaked as the nurse did… well, whatever) would correspond to how negative the person’s experience was. But this is not the case. The people who ended up hating it the most were those that had high pain close to the end of the colonoscopy. Even someone who had similar pain spikes throughout, but had a longer colonoscopy with the ending being very mild actually reported more pleasantly on the experience a few days later. Think of listening to a song, then at the end, there a very high pitched scream that ‘ruins the song’ for you. Well, it didn’t ruin the 3 minutes of beautiful music you heard, it just ruins your memory of it.
It highlights the difference between the remembering self and the experiencing self. And it’s the remembering self that makes the decisions in life; like whether to do another yoga class or whether to get another colonoscopy. This has great implications for business people designing experiences. And even for feeding you kids. They don’t like vegetables? Feed them the veggies at the start of the meal, then the good stuff at the end, maybe even with an awesome dessert too. Muahaha – science gets ya!