Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The last shall be best

Now here’s an experiment I wouldn’t mind participating in.  In an effort to understand whether people rate final experiences more highly than earlier ones, Ed O’Brien and Phoebe Ellsworth of the University of Michigan fed their volunteers a bunch of chocolates.  Mmm…  science!

Fifty-two lucky students were each given five different flavors of Hershey Kisses in random order.  After each sample, the experimenter would say, ‘here is your next chocolate’.  For half the subjects, the statement before the fifth chocolate was changed to ‘here is your last chocolate’. In other words, half of the volunteers were warned that the upcoming chocolate was to be their last one and half were not.

So how did all the chocolates rank?  By a wide margin, people who had been apprised that they were about to receive their last chocolate rated that flavor as the best.  In fact, participants who were notified that the test was about to end rated the entire experiment more highly.  Apparently, everything becomes more pleasurable when you know it’s not going to last.

I’m already scheming to use this knowledge to manipulate myself into getting more enjoyment out of life.  The authors are right on board with this idea.  They suggest, 
Consider the cheaper option during your final visit to a restaurant – it may taste just as delicious as any other.