Description: Research has suggested that memories for difficult or painful experiences seem related to a combination of the worst and most recent moments. This peak-end theory was tested in relation to an exercise task (eccentric quadriceps using a BIODEX machine) as well as a cognitive task (standardized quantitative test questions). For each type of task there were two trials: short and happy endings. The happy endings trial included the same task as the short trial with an additional 25% duration at a lesser intensity (80% of short task intensity). A 2 (task type) by 2 (trial type) repeated measures design was used. Participants made global ratings of difficulty immediately after each component, thus generating four ratings, and later indicated their preferences for hypothetical future trials. Results indicated support for the theory that the shorter trials are evaluated as more difficult, with the cognitive task being evaluated as more difficult overall than the exercise task. Preference scores, however, revealed a preference only for the happy endings cognitive task, with no preference indicated on the exercise task. Results confirm previous research in suggesting differences between judgements of tasks and future choices. However, confounds complicated interpretations, especially for the cognitive task. The most conservative interpretation of data suggests that in circumstances where "more is better," happy endings will result in more work with no higher level of discomfort. Implications for future research and applications of the theory are discussed.
Date: August 1998
Creator: Diehl, Nancy S. (Nancy Sue)