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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Book of James: Revelation IX

    It goes without saying that you have been in at least one stressful situation in your life.’ Even a relatively cushioned man as George W. Bush sometimes finds himself in stressful situations (choking on a pretzel, perhaps).’ The interesting thing about the way we remember these situations, however, is that by changing just a few dynamics of these situations, we either perceive them as not that bad or exponentially worse than they should have been.’ Psychology has named this the Peak-End Rule, and it is by far my favorite rule for the time being.

    In recalling the level of satisfaction or discomfort from an event, your mind looks at the direction of your feelings from the most intense part of the experience to the end.’ For example, if you go to an interview, start out bumbling but end well, your memory of the interview is going to be fairly positive, on the whole.’ Conversely, if you start out strong but end weak, the interview was a failure.’ Here’s a very poignant example: researchers found that people reported enjoying the experience of drinking soda more when they first drank a lukewarm cup followed by a cold cup, relative to simply drinking one cup.’ Why?’ That upward trend imprints a more positive memory than simply flat-lining on a high comfort level that a cold cup of soda provides.

    Regardless of actual performance or actual discomfort/pleasure felt in the moment, we need a shorthand way to judge an experience.’ Evolutionarily, we have chosen to look at our feelings from the peak of the experience to its end and base our representation of the entire experience on that.

    I want you to exploit this knowledge.’ Next time you find yourself in a potentially discomforting situation, do your best to end on a high note.’ That will likely make your day.’ On the same note, when things are looking up, know to quit when you’re ahead.’ You’ll feel better about it in the long run.

    Is it possible to adjust our expectations of events to correct for this effect?’ Probably not, and if it were possible, I would expect the correction to be relatively minor.’ Regardless of your emotional memory of a situation, knowledge of how you remember events is critical to making good decisions.’ Know that the way you feel about a given event is fundamentally detached from reality.’ This is neither good nor bad- it is simply a given.’ When deciding how you performed on a test, you might feel really confident because you went from ambivalent in your responses to very confident in the last fifteen minutes.’ That does not change the fact that you failed.’ You can have your feelings, but be realistic when it comes to analyzing the situation in a concrete way.

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