Publication: Examining the Peak-End Effects of Subjective Experience

Psychological research has shown that 'peak-end' effects influence people's retrospective evaluation of hedonic and affective experience. Rather than objectively reviewing the total amount of pleasure or pain during an experience, people's evaluation is shaped by the most intense moment (the peak) and the final moment (end). We describe an experiment demonstrating that peak-end effects can influence a user's preference for interaction sequences that are objectively identical in their overall requirements. Participants were asked to choose which of two interactive sequences of five pages they preferred. Both sequences required setting a total of 25 sliders to target values, and differed only in the distribution of the sliders across the five pages -- with one sequence intended to induce positive peak-end effects, the other negative. The study found that manipulating only the peak or the end of the series did not significantly change preference, but that a combined manipulation of both peak and end did lead to significant differences in preference, even though all series had the same overall effort.




Andy Cockburn
University of Canterbury
P. Quinn
Carl Gutwin
University of Saskatchewan


Cockburn, A., Quinn, P., Gutwin, C. 2015. Examining the Peak-End Effects of Subjective Experience. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2015), ISBN 978-1-4503-3145-6. 357-366. DOI=10.1145/2702123.2702139.


@inbook {450-examining-the-peak-end,
author= {Andy Cockburn and P. Quinn and Carl Gutwin},
title= {Examining the Peak-End Effects of Subjective Experience},
booktitle= {Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2015)},
year= {2015},
pages= {357-366}