What kind of chocolate is best? The last you taste, says a new study

February 9, 2012, Association for Psychological Science

(Medical Xpress) -- Like to save the best for last? Here’s good news: If it’s the last, you’ll like it the best. That is the finding of a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. “Endings affect us in lots of ways, and one is this ‘positivity effect,’” says University of Michigan psychologist Ed O’Brien, who conducted the study with colleague Phoebe C. Ellsworth. Graduation from college, the last kiss before going off to war: we experience these “lasts” with deep pleasure and affection—in fact, more than we may have felt about those places or people the day before. Even long painful experiences that end pleasantly are rated more highly than short ones ending painfully.

But does the last-is-best bias obtain in everyday life, with insignificant events? It does, the study found. Moreover, says O’Brien, it doesn’t even have to be a real last one to be experienced as best. “When you simply tell people something is the last, they may like that thing more.”

The study involved 52 students, women and men, who were told they were participating in a taste test of Hershey’s Kisses made with local ingredients. The experimenters drew five chocolates—milk, dark, crème, caramel, and almond—in random order from a hidden pocket inside a bag. The participants didn’t know how many there would be. After tasting each, they rated how enjoyable it was from 0 to 10. Some participants were told each time: “Here is the next one.” The others got the same lead-in until the fifth chocolate, before which the experimenter said, “This is the last one.” After tasting all the chocolates, the participants indicated which they liked best and how enjoyable the tasting was overall. The results: The fifth chocolate was rated as more enjoyable when it was the “last” chocolate versus just another in the taste test. The designated “last” chocolate was also the favorite 64% of the time, no matter which flavor it was. Among those who ate only “next” chocolates, the last was chosen 22% of the time—statistically speaking, a chance occurrence. And the “last” group also rated the whole experience as more enjoyable than “nexts” did.

Why is this so? The authors have a few theories. Among these: “It’s something motivational,” says O’Brien. “You think: ‘I might as well reap the benefits of this experience even though it’s going to end,’ or ‘I want to get something good out of this while I still can.’” Another, says O’Brien: “Many experiences have happy endings – from the movies and shows we watch to dessert at the end of a meal – and so people may have a general expectation that things end well, which could bleed over into these insignificant or unrelated judgments.”

The findings of what O’Brien humbly calls “our little chocolate test” could have serious implications. Professors marking the last exam may give it the best grade even if it’s not objectively better than the preceding ones. Employers may be inclined to hire the last-interviewed job applicant. Awareness of this bias could make such subjective judgments fairer.

Of course, endings don’t bring up only positive emotions, O’Brien notes. Often there’s also sadness about loss—that bittersweet feeling. If its bittersweet and the last one you think you’ll eat, however, chances are the taste will be sweet.

Explore further: Experiences are better when we know they're about to end

More information: www.psychologicalscience.org/i … sychological_science

Related Stories

Experiences are better when we know they're about to end

January 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- People often view the "last" moments of an event positively simply because they signal the end of an experience, say University of Michigan researchers.

Is there a hidden bias against creativity?

November 18, 2011
CEOs, teachers, and leaders claim they want creative ideas to solve problems. But creative ideas are rejected all the time. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of ...

Are we bad at forecasting our emotions? It depends on how you measure accuracy

January 26, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- How will you feel if you fail that test? Awful, really awful, you say. Then you fail the test and, yes, you feel bad—but not as bad as you thought you would. This pattern holds for most people, research ...

Sexism and gender inequality

October 28, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Individual beliefs don’t stay confined to the person who has them; they can affect how a society functions. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological ...

Men get ahead for being 'disagreeable' in the workplace; women don't

August 4, 2011
In the workplace they do, according to new research co-authored by University of Notre Dame Management Professor Timothy Judge. But there also is a double standard for women and, yes, a pay gap.

Recommended for you

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

Does pot really dull a teen's brain?

April 18, 2018
Pot-smoking teens may not be dooming themselves to a destiny of dim-wittedness, a new review suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.