Duration neglect is the psychological observation that people's judgments of the unpleasantness of painful experiences depend very little on the duration of those experiences. Multiple experiments have found that these judgments tend to be affected by two factors: the peak (when the experience was the most painful) and how quickly the pain diminishes. If it diminishes more quickly, the experience is judged to be more painful. Hence, the term "peak–end rule" describes this process of evaluation.
In one study, Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Fredrickson showed subjects pleasant or aversive film clips. When reviewing the clips mentally at a later time, subjects did not appear to take the length of the stimuli into account, instead judging them as if they were only a series of affective "snapshots".
In another demonstration, Kahneman and Fredrickson with other collaborators had subjects place their hands in painfully cold water. Under one set of instructions, they had to keep their hand in the water for an additional 30 seconds as the water was slowly heated to a warmer but still uncomfortably cold level, and under another set of instructions they were to remove their hand immediately. Otherwise, both experiences were the same. Most subjects chose to repeat the longer experience. Subjects apparently judged the experience according to the peak–end rule (in other words, according to its worst and final moments only), paying little attention to duration.
Duration neglect can be observed in medicine, as it may lead patients to be inaccurate when judging whether their symptoms are improving with treatment.
Some forms of duration neglect may be reduced or eliminated by having participants answer in graphical format, or give a rating for every five minutes. Duration neglect is a subtype of extension neglect and a component of affective forecasting.
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- Kahneman, Daniel; Barbara L. Fredrickson, Charles A. Schreiber & Donald A. Redelmeier (1993). "When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End". Psychological Science 4 (6): 401–405. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1993.tb00589.x.
- Redelmeier, Donald A. (2011). "Determining Whether a Patient is Feeling Better: Pitfalls from the Science of Human Perception". Journal of General Internal Medicine 26 (8): 900–906. doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1655-3.
- Liersch, M. J.; C. R. M. Mackenzie (2009). "Duration neglect by numbers -- and its elimination by graphs" (PDF). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 108: 303–314. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2008.07.001.