In Thinking, Fast And Slow Daniel Kahneman writes about the lessons about human memory and perception that we can learn from colonoscopy operations.
No matter how long or painful these operations are, patients’ memory of their experience is defined disproportionately by how it ended.
If it ended well, patients are more likely to remember the whole experience as a positive one.
I was reminded of this by a speaker at MEC’s conference last week.
Eric Whitacre is a composer, a conductor, and the man behind The Virtual Choir, an awesome crowd-sourced project that creates spellbinding choral pieces via YouTube.
The most recent piece is here.
Eric heard Daniel Kahneman speak at TED.
He was so taken with this insight about the ends of experiences that he started thinking differently about how his pieces might finish.
A play I saw on Saturday night played knowingly with this insight, too.
At the end of a one-man show, pre-loaded viewfinders (like these) were handed out.
The audience was asked to click in time with instructions. Each slide featured something related to the performance we’d just watched, ironically messing with what we’d seen.
The aim was to play with individuals’ recollection and make audience members knowingly complicit in the writer’s re-draft of our memory.
You know, like a play that billed itself as inspired by Marcel Proust and Charlie Kaufmann would. (It’s called Souvenir and it’s on this week.)
I don’t think we think enough in our world about how things end.
Even if the memory of a pitch lingers longer if you win it.
And the clues are everywhere.
Our conference was in Nice, and the protacted trek back, shuffling from coach to plane to shuttle to train to tube to home, reminded me how the emotional experience of travel can differ at either end, and affect the mood accordingly.
I was talking with Matt Locke recently about this too.
An advocate and practioner of digital storytelling, he’s interested in how good (or otherwise) we are at ending stories that are told online. By and large it’s a skill we haven’t really learned yet.
Perhaps if we did it well we’d benefit from what Kahneman noticed – the the psychological trick people play on themselves.
Matt’s background is in TV, of course.
In that world they’ve started to understand the ending insight.
What used to be called the ‘last episode in the series’ is now known as the ‘series finale’.
Pulling the plug can be an opportunity, not just something to shy away from.
I wonder when our own industry’s storytelling will become as unabashed as our own about finishing things off.