A tale of 2 matches
“Brilliant Match”, “What a match”, “Incredible stuff”, “Nail biting contest”….people were going crazy on twitter soon after India won the 2nd One day international against South Africa.
Meanwhile, there was another match, a more keenly contested premier league draw between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. This game between the Red devils and Spurs ended in a “Boring Draw”
These are classic examples to illustrate how we mess up experience and memory.
The way these matches ended was in complete contrast to the experience of watching these matches. Some friends texted saying the cricket match was boring, there were no tweets about the match, may be lot of yawns and switching channels. The Man U – Spurs game while watching was riveting to say the least. Both teams played expansive fast paced football.
While the experience counted for nothing, the memory, which is essentially ‘how it ended’ is what stayed with us. There is lot of science behind the old saying “All’s well that ends well”
Our experiencing self lives in the moment and according to Daniel Kahneman, the inventor of Behavioral Economics, this moment lasts about 3 seconds. What we are left with afterwards is a memory of an experience.
You go for a dinner, enjoy the starters and the main course and if the dessert turns out bad, you typically say “It ruined the whole experience”. The fact is you had the experience. A bad dessert cannot go back in time and ruin the experience of a good main course. But you remember it that way.
The remembering self, according to Kahneman is the one that keeps score of good memories and bad. It is the one that influences decisions. When you decide to take a vacation, you are essentially digging in to the memories of last visit to that place and not the experience. In essence, Experience has no vote when it comes to decision making.
A case study of a not so pleasant experience proves this point. People who go through colonoscopies were asked to rate pain as they were going through the procedure. Procedures that ended quickly but at peak pain levels and procedures that took longer where it ended on lower pain levels were compared. Both groups experienced peak pain, the second group endured pain for a longer duration. Only, the pain at the end point was lower. However when they were asked later about their ‘experience’ the second group rated the procedure as less painful. An experience of high pain didn’t translate in to a memory of a high pain.
The Pain graph
So, a boring match that ended well remains in memory as a great match and an exciting match that ended in a draw remains as one thats boring. The next time we have to chose, we’ll chose on memory and probably endure a boring match. This is how we end up messing our sense of happiness, because we think of future as anticipated memories rather than anticipated experiences.
For all those who think “Experiential Marketing”, there are some important lessons here.