How You Can Help Shape Your Kids’ Memories

Field Notes From Fatherhood

Imagine you’re going to have a painful medical procedure. You could choose to have it last 6 minutes or 12 minutes. Which option do you take?

Six minutes, of course. Right? Well, it’s not so simple. Take a look at these charts from Daniel Kahneman’s remarkable book Thinking, Fast and Slowcolonoscopy-pain-perception

The procedure – a colonoscopy (ouch) – had identical intensities of self-reported pain, but it lasted 3 times as long for patient B than it did for patient A. Clearly, patient B will remember this as being a more unpleasant experience than will patient A.

Now here’s the interesting bit.

When asked to report on the “total amount of pain” they had experienced during the procedure, patient A “retained a much worse memory of the episode.” WHAT? Why?

There are two main reasons. One is called the ‘peak-end’ rule. The overall memory (pain in this case) can be predicted…

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