As the Nobel Prize winning economist, Daniel Kahneman, points out in his best seller, Thinking Fast and Slow, we each contain two selves—what he calls our Experiencer Self and our Remembered Self.
In explaining the differences between the two selves, one of the examples Kahneman gives is that of listening to a long, beautiful symphony that is interrupted by loud scratches on the CD at the end. From the point of view of the Experiencer Self, ninety percent of the experience is wonderful. But for the Remembered Self, the whole memory of the experience has been ruined!
Similarly, as every marketer knows, years of positive experiences with a brand can be erased by a single bad experience.
Importantly, when it comes to economic decision-making, our Remembered Self rules. Kahneman observes, “People choose by memory when they decide whether or not to repeat an experience.”
In describing the relationship between the two selves, Kahneman describes two patterns that he has observed statistically across a number of academic experiments. The first is what he calls the Peak-End Rule, the second is Duration Neglect.
Peak End Rule—the global rating of an experience is well-predicted by the peak moment of an experience, and its end. Duration Neglect—the total duration of an experience had no impact on its overall rating.
This fits with his insight that the Remembered Self is the storytelling self. A story is about significant events and memorable moments and not about time passing.
This also fits with our research findings across thousands of advertising pre-tests. The number of peak experiences generated in consumer memory and their overall level of emotional intensity are far more predictive of the effectiveness of a TV commercial, in terms of attention-getting power or motivation, than is the mere length of the ad.
Most of the new neuro-metric and bio-metric techniques, measuring phenomena such as brain wave activity, skin conductance, heart rates, facial response, etc., are focused on measuring the consumer’s engagement with an ad—or how an ad is experienced in real time. In other words, they are focused on understanding the Experiencer Self of the consumer.
What we have learned is that studying the Remembered Self raises many questions about the relationship between the two Selves of the consumer.