remember the events, the emotions have dissipated. Notice the
delight with which the writer of
the email shared her story of the
negative experience with me.
Yes, the bad things were horrible. But yes, she would go back.
The problems and frustrations
of life do not matter nearly as
much as you think. What matters is the memory of the events.
With positive memories, people
go back to a website, store, or
amusement park, return to
Thailand, and recommend products to their friends.
Consider some simple case
studies. I asked people to tell me
what they hate most about a wide
variety of things. I asked about
Apple’s operating system, iPod,
i Touch, and iPhone. I asked for
the biggest downsides of a Disney
theme-park visit or a cruise-ship
voyage. I asked about automobiles such as the VW Beetle or
the Mini Cooper. In all cases, I
had a litany of horror stories. “I
hate the lines,” they say about
Disney theme parks. “I hate the
way Ikea forces me to go through
the entire store.” When prompted,
people are pretty good at generating a list of dislikes, even hates.
Thailand photographs by Tammy Guy
But then I asked if they would
go back, or purchase the item
again, or repeat the experience.
Would they recommend it to
their friends? The answer was
a resounding “yes!” Not universally, I hasten to add, but way up
there in terms of percentages.
High-enough percentages to
make executives at these companies smile and nod their heads
Terence Mitchell and Leigh
Thompson identify three different aspects of an experience:
“rosy projection,” “dampening,”
and “rosy retrospection.” [ 2, 3]
• A snack of
fried insects, an
toilet, and a
triumph of memory
Rosy projection: “the tendency
for people to anticipate events as
more favorable and positive than
they describe the experience at
the time of its occurrence”;
Dampening: “the tendency for
people to minimize the favorabil-ity or pleasure of events they are
Rosy retrospection: “the tendency for people to remember and
recollect events they experience
more fondly and positively than
they evaluated them to be at the
time of their occurrence.”
There is considerable experimental evidence to favor the
concept of these three aspects.
Note that we are speaking
of events that would normally be seen as positive. For
example, Mitchell, Thompson
et al., studied a 12-day tour of
Europe, students going home for
Thanksgiving vacation, and a
three-week bicycle tour across
California. The results were all
similar. Before an event, people
look forward with positive anticipation. Afterward, they tend
to remember the event fondly.
During? Well, reality seldom
lives up to expectations, so lots
of things go wrong, sometimes
[ 2] Mitchell, T. and
L. Thompson. “A
Theory of Temporal
Adjustments of the
Evaluation of Events:
Rosy Prospection &
In Advances in
Vol. 5, edited by C.
Stubbart, J. Porac,
and J. Meindl, 85-114.
Greenwich, CT: JAI
[ 3] Mitchell, T. R.,
L. Thompson, E.
Peterson, and R. Cronk.
in the Evaluation of
Events: The ‘Rosy
View.’” Journal of
Psychology 33, no. 4