To quote from the abstract, “[Kahneman’s] new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness” – but why stop there? Let’s add “user experience” (UX) on the human front and “ALM and SDLC” on the app front. This topic is going to be kind of long, so I’m going to break up UX and ALM and SDLC into two installments; let’s do UX first.
[…] This applies to laypeople thinking about their own happiness, and it applies to scholars thinking about happiness, because it turns out we're just as messed up as anybody else is. The first of these traps is a reluctance to admit complexity. It turns out that the word "happiness" is just not a useful word anymore, because we apply it to too many different things. I think there is one particular meaning to which we might restrict it, but by and large, this is something that we'll have to give up and we'll have to adopt the more complicated view of what well-being is. The second trap is a confusion between experience and memory; basically, it's between being happy in your life, and being happy about your life or happy with your life. And those are two very different concepts, and they're both lumped in the notion of happiness. And the third is the focusing illusion, and it's the unfortunate fact that we can't think about any circumstance that affects well-being without distorting its importance.
Now, here it is after I have made my mangling substitutions:
Everybody talks about User Experience these days. […] There is a huge wave of interest in User Experience, among researchers. There is a lot of User Experience coaching. Everybody would like to make people have better experiences. But in spite of all this flood of work, there are several cognitive traps that sort of make it almost impossible to think straight about User Experience.
Now this is just the opening of the lecture and neither version really proves anything – he’s just setting the stage – let’s look at two examples he cites to make his (and my) point.
…but it works the other way too…
He retells a well-documented study of two patients undergoing colonoscopies; patient B was subjected to a particularly painful exam that he verified by reporting on his pain every few minutes. BUT the last few minutes of his exam had no pain whatsoever. Patient A was subjected to a less painful exam – BUT their exam had the moderate-level pain throughout their relatively shorter and less extreme exam. Clearly, patient B suffered more -- their colonoscopies were longer, and every minute of pain that patient A had, patient B had, and more.
…And now Kahneman delivers the punch line; "The surprise is that Patient A had a much worse memory of the colonoscopy than Patient B.” The stories of the colonoscopies were different, and because a very critical part of the story is how it ends. It was much worse for patient A than for patient B in memory. “What defines a story are changes, significant moments and endings. Endings are very, very important and, in this case, the ending dominated.”
When something goes wrong for your user, the story isn’t over unless you let it be over. If you can get back to your user and fix or at least address their issue in some timely fashion – their memory (of their user experience) can be rehabilitated just as dramatically as it was decimated in the previous example.
“We don’t choose between [user] experiences, we choose between memories of [user] experiences. Even when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as [user] experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories.”
Kahneman’s independent research offers some of the strongest evidence yet on the importance (criticality) of using stories in operations and support, app design, user training, and in product management.