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 Frederickson 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, only as if they were a series of affective "snap shots".
In another demonstration, Kahneman and Frederickson 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.
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.
- Ronald Ross Watson; Colin R. Martin (15 April 2011). Handbook of Behavior, Food and Nutrition. Springer. p. 669. ISBN 978-0-387-92271-3. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- Frederickson, Barbara L.; Daniel Kahneman (1993). "Duration neglect in retrospective evaluations of affective episodes". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65 (1): 45–55. doi:10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124. PMID 8355141.
- 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.
- Liersch, M. J.; C. R. M. Mackenzie (2009). "Duration neglect by numbers -- and its elimination by graphs". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 108: 303–314.