Which Matters More, a First or Last Impression?
Emails from a listener named sam cohn who happens to be a nursing student and he wants to know this our first impressions or last impressions more impactful question or you're thinking about the colonoscopy study i mean honestly there's only one cold i'll give you study will. There are many colonoscopy studies in the medical literature but only one in the psychology literature that i'm aware of exactly that social scientists would know about and that's the famous economy and colleagues study about peak and end the peak and theory. So can you tell us. About the pecan therion. How colonoscopy works to illustrate that so danny katamon and his colleagues did a study where everybody in. The study is getting a colonoscopy. You are randomly assigned. These are people who are already going to be getting on us. Yes i think. It was a collaboration with physicians. If only there were experiments that we could sign up for four which we get a colonoscopy decide. The i would prefer the chemotherapy pleased survey. I'm going to prefer the high fat diet one. This study randomly signs patients who are already signed up for a colonoscopy to either get colonoscopy as usual which i am told and as they say in the article is a pretty unpleasant experience because of the mechanics of the whole thing and the experimental condition is where the exploratory equipment of they have to put into. You is held there for a little longer than would necessarily be the case and your instinct might say oh. That's the bad version of the experiment right because you get more pain but what was so clever about this experiment is that yet. It's more pain. But because you're just having the tip of the scope to sitting there in the rectum. It's more moderate level of pain than what it's moving around during the colonoscopy itself. I think they would probably just call it a mild discomfort compared to a greater discomfort. I mean i can't imagine what it's like to have. The tip of a colonoscopy will come back in a week or two and give us the details so the reason why is interesting. Is that patients who underwent the extended procedure with the additional. Moderate level of pain actually raided the overall experience as less unpleasant and the reason why this was so important is that congressman was at the time developing a theory. Where there is the remembering self and the experiencing self and he says the experiencing self is just experiencing moment by moment. How happy my house. Adami anxious in my hungry am i but the remembering self is consolidating all of that and collapsing it into a memory and he had the theory that when the remembering self processes information and collapses a whole string of moments into one impression. Two things are going to take additional weight. One is the peak of the experience of the high in the low points and the other is the end points and so this famous study affirmed the hypothesis that the end of an experience takes disproportionate weight when we evaluate the overall experience. Now knowing the colonoscopy study what will i ask for if i had the chance to ask my doctor you say gimme the katamon colonoscopy please exactly the katamon special so it's interesting. Is that even though. This finding is a sturdy finding. I don't want the extra pain although since you're inexperienced in colonoscopy so we'll have to see if maybe you'll change your mind after you have but let's say that we want to take it out of the realm of the colonoscopy which i probably should and let's say we want to steer this back toward what sam is asking about the first impression or the last impression imagine a family vacation but say you are apparent with kids and a spouse or whatnot and you go on a family holiday. What would you rather have of the to a great beginning or a great ending y. So oh gosh. I think i would like to have a great ending because i do think the peak end effect does hold true so my ambivalence at my colonoscopy if the vacation we're say four days i would rather have a terrible first day and a wonderful fourth day than the opposite that makes sense because as you were describing the lasting thing is the memory so of course you want that to the positive one. Yeah the whole memory is going to be colored by the last moments more than like the mid point or something. I have to say. Ever since i read that paper years ago and interviewed donald reddell meyer one of the co about it. I have tried to apply the peak in theory all the time in my life in interviews with my family and random encounters with strangers. The minute something good happens. I just stop so you just leave when i learned about this. It made me think first of all of so many rituals that are part of our lives that seem to capitalize on the peak in theory. So dessert why desert last. Why don't we eat it. i. I don't know how much yoga you're doing these days so much. Okay so shiva's nina. Do you know this corpse pose at the end. Of course it feels so good to be sitting there and completely relaxing. And there's a reason. I think that every yoga practice ends with shibata so the next time you think. Do i wanna do yoga. Your memory is least colored by that. But that's challenge this notion so i think you've done a pretty good job persuading everybody. The last impressions are really powerful. But let's talk about first impressions. I mean there's this whole mountain of cliches about that right. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and so on and let's go back to that vacation if you show up with your family to this place where your vacation for four days in your first impression is terrible. Doesn't that set a tone that will be impossible to recover from and from which no final impression is possible to save the experience yet to argue that last impressions take on disproportionate. Way does not say that first impressions. Don't matter disproportionately also for different reasons. First impressions can carry more weight than the mid point or some other point in experience. So one reason is that first impression. Has this kind of path dependency so say you have a really bad day of that. Four day vacation. Everybody's now on a sour mood now. You're all fighting on day two and then because you were fighting on day two day. Three is a total catastrophe. Even those comes out you get off on the wrong foot as it were. And then everything. Kind of goes downhill from there. You know when. I first read this question from sam our first impressions or less imprisons more impactful. My initial impulse was to try to answer it. Like we're trying to do now but my my second impulse and the deeper one was to view it as i do as a writer which is to say wool. Both i think for everything i've ever written whether to book an article Podcast script whatever. I'd probably spend three to ten times more effort on the beginning and the end than on anything else because as a writer was informed years and years and years ago by my experiences a reader which is at the beginning really really matters the ending really really matters and there's also a notion expressed in various places. I don't know where i got it from. Maybe the talmud or shakespeare that the best beginnings have a little bit of the end in them. If the writing is good so i do wonder if maybe sam is pursuing an either or choice when the answer in fact should be an end answer. Both end is usually the answer to checkoff and the great multiple choice of life. The way that this question was framed. It's like when we are meeting another person or when you open a book or you start an article or you start listening to a podcast or watching a movie. It's so clear to us when we just think about those experiences. How the very beginning. It does matter because you are very quickly coming to judgments. And there is this research on thin slicing by among others nominee embody. Maybe you did freakonomics episode on this note. I read about thin slicing in one of malcolm. Glows books blink. This is the idea that you can come to very quick impressions and they're not even necessarily verbally articulated ones but just got feelings of like good or bad in milliseconds and that these very quick impressions can be predictive of later judgements. That are much more deliberative and so forth. That's an argument in favor of a strong first impression because in some cases lake with a move your book or a person if the first impression is not a good one there will be no opportunity for a final impression where the final impression will be one second after the first impression right hopefully less with people and more with like net flicks. So imagine there a job interview and your first impression of candid. It is a positive one. Well danny ottoman would remind us that then confirmation bias is gonna kick in and then for the last fifty eight minutes of the hour long interview. You're just going to be confirming your own positive impression. And so there's a path dependency in judgment and not just the path dependency in life events.