Scientific article
Open access

How does the peak-end heuristic smell? Tracing hedonic experience with odors

Publication date2019

The peak-end rule predicts that retrospective evaluations of affective events heavily depend on their most intense and last moment and imply duration neglect. It was originally proposed for negative experiences such as painful medical procedures. It is unclear, however, to what degree it also applies to positive experiences. Previously, rigorous comparisons between the two domains were limited due to the use of qualitatively different stimuli. Hence, it is not clear if the peak-end rule holds for short positive and negative experiences alike. To address these questions in a genuinely emotional domain, we conducted two experiments (n = 48 each) in which we used odours as stimuli. Participants repeatedly evaluated continuous odour sequences delivered into their noses via an olfactometer. The sequences differed in valence (positive vs. negative), length (36 vs. 72 s), and trajectory (increasing, decreasing, U-shaped, and inverse U-shaped). Results provide evidence for the peak-end rule for both positive and negative experiences alike. Results further show an overweighting of intense negative experiences for sequences that contain both pleasant and unpleasant episodes but provide little evidence for an effect of the trajectory manipulation.

  • Peak-end rule
  • Odours
  • Positive and negative affect
  • Emotions
Citation (ISO format)
SCHEIBEHENNE, Benjamin, COPPIN, Géraldine. How does the peak-end heuristic smell? Tracing hedonic experience with odors. In: Cognition and Emotion, 2019. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2019.1675599
Main files (1)
Article (Accepted version)
ISSN of the journal0269-9931

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