From experience to memory: on the robustness of the peak-and-end-rule for complex, heterogeneous experiences

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Memory forms the input for future behavior. Therefore, how individuals remember a certain experience may be just as important as the experience itself. The peak-and-end-rule (PE-rule) postulates that remembered experiences are best predicted by the peak emotional valence and the emotional valence at the end of an experience in the here and now. The PE-rule, however, has mostly been assessed in experimental paradigms that induce relatively simple, one-dimensional experiences (e.g. experienced pain in a clinical setting). This hampers generalizations of the PE-rule to the experiences in everyday life. This paper evaluates the generalizability of the PE-rule to more complex and heterogeneous experiences by examining the PE-rule in a virtual reality (VR) experience, as VR combines improved ecological validity with rigorous experimental control. Findings indicate that for more complex and heterogeneous experiences, peak and end emotional valence are inferior to other measures (such as averaged valence and arousal ratings over the entire experiential episode) in predicting remembered experience. These findings suggest that the PE-rule cannot be generalized to ecologically more valid experiential episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalFrontiers in psychology
Issue number1705
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • experience
  • memory
  • experiencing self
  • remembering self
  • peak-and-end-rule

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