Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

The Power of Peak Moments and Powerful Endings

Want to make more of an impact with your customers? Maybe a quick science lesson will help you create more positive and memorable experiences for your fans.

In a post this week on his Artful Manager blog, Andrew Taylor has some great observations regarding the Peak/End Rule. Taylor writes about "Nobel-prize winning psychiatrist Daniel Kahneman, who has done experiments to determine how individuals attribute pleasure or pain to a lived experience." His findings led to the Peak/End Rule.

The Noise Between Stations web site describes the Peak/End Rule this way: "When people assess a past experience, they pay attention above all to two things: how it felt at the peak and whether it got better or worse at the end. A mild improvement -- even if it's an improvement from 'intolerable' to 'pretty bad' -- makes the whole experience seem better, and a bad ending makes everything seem worse."

Wikipedia chimes in with "We judge our past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Virtually all other information appears to be discarded, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted."

Back to Andrew Taylor's blog post ...

"First off, this fact of perception seems to be already in the bones of the most well-regarded artists. For example, I once heard a jazz pianist tell a group of students how to craft a solo improvisation. The cheat sheet? Build to a strong middle, and make a solid ending ... the audience won't remember anything else. I've also seen many orchestral conductors add an especially dramatic flourish to their final cut-off, leading the crowd to go wild, regardless of what came before."

The traditional wisdom I've always heard was to start strong and finish strong. Based on the Peak/End Rule, that may be only half true. A new rule to consider: If you're a performer, save one of your most potent "peak experience" pieces for someplace in the middle of a performance, then end with a crowd-pleasing flurry.

However, this concept can be applied to art of all kinds:
  • Plays
  • Novels
  • Poems
  • Short stories
  • Musical performances
  • Art gallery events
  • Stand-up comedy routines
  • Dance presentations
So ... regardless of what you create, be sure to craft a specific climactic moment, and save your best stuff for the end.


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