What is peak end theory?

What is peak end theory?

In his 2011 book Thinking fast and slow Daniel Kahnerman unpacks the cognitive bias Peak End Theory. Peak end theory hypothesises that the experiences we have at both the peak and the end of a journey leaves a disproportionate impact on us compared to everything else.

Possibly the best example of this is when we take a break to go on holiday. We won’t remember it accurately. Our brain plays tricks on us in how we retro-actively shape our memories we have on it and the photos we take will also reinforce that too. We can remember a good holiday as completely rubbish because the baggage handling was appalling after a poor airline experience on the way home, for example.

It can also work the other way around. If you go to a theme park and have to stand in a queue for a hour to get on a roller-coaster, this poor experience can be completely undone by the exhilaration of 4 minutes being centrifuged in a bucket.

Why does peak end theory matter in tech product? Well, whilst we should endeavour for the whole product experience to be good, we need to remember that leaving our users on a high-note disproportionately leaves them feeling good about the experience. This is also likely to lead to better reviews, better rankings, better retention. A virtuous circle of positivity. A terrible  3rd party check-out is a reall buzz-kill to an otherwise good experience for example, as is getting your online enquiry dropped by a bot and so on.

How you leave your customers is critical to the opinion they form of you and so should never be ignored.


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