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Chalk board at the Heineken Experience with writing on it

9. The end of the experience

Part of a short series on memory design

Denise Hampson
Friday 1st July 2022

We’ve discussed the peak, but the end is just as important. Studies show people remember painful or difficult experiences more positively if they end well.

I mentioned IKEA earlier. Imagine you’ve just battled your way for the last two hours through a path that takes you past every single thing they sell. For the last two hours your brain has been constantly asking you “Is that a good price? Do we need it? Can we afford it?” And you’re exhausted!

Then you get to the end and just beyond the checkout there’s a café selling bargain price hot dogs, meatballs, ice cream and coffee. And they’re pretty good too. That’s the end of the experience and it’s positive. And as you head to the car your memory already doesn’t seem so bad and you think to yourself you’d probably do this again.

It always amazes me that when I go to see a west end show I walk into an elegant foyer, step up plush carpeted stairs to find my seat. The auditorium is decorated with sparkling chandeliers and gold-painted carvings. I watch the show and let’s assume it’s fantastic and I take part in the standing ovation at the end… and then in those final moments… as I leave… I walk in a huge crowd down an unpainted, dusty little staircase and get tipped out into an alleyway at the back of the theatre. I have no idea why the final moments of performances are so un-designed this way.

Talking of shows – have you ever been to see a movie and you came out of the cinema and you said to your friend “wow that was great – I loved it”. And your friend says “really? I didn’t. I thought it was a bit rubbish.” In that moment, part of your experience gets adjusted by the opinion of your friend.

Something I learned recently about the Wagner Festspielhaus I talked about in a previous post, is that if the audience hasn’t loved the performance they boo!! Even if it was technically excellent – if they didn’t feel it – they boo, really loud. Imagine you were in that audience and you’d loved the show right up until that moment, it would be very hard for you NOT to have your memory of the experience adjusted by the boos of the rest of the crowd.

The photo on this page is from the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam where they ask visitors to write on an enormous chalk board what their favourite memory of the experience was. Doing this helps to lock it in before it is corrupted by the opinions of others.

Also, reading other people’s highlights is a great reminder of all the good stuff you’ve just experienced.