Many hours into yesterday’s cleaning slugfest, R asked me if it was harder than the marathon the previous weekend.
I was squatting on the floor, scrubbing the shelves clean while a knee and the back hurt. My instant answer was ‘yeah’.
It was a case of recency bias – I was still suffering the pain from the cleaning (I was 4 hours in by then). The marathon1 had been a week ago. System 1 distinctly felt the current pain while forgetting the one in the past.
It was also a clear case of duration neglect. At times the cleaning was harder, nastier, and maybe even more painful than the marathon. However those painful periods were few. Most of the time it was just mildly irritating and dirty.
The marathon had been, in the latter half, nearly 90 mins of fighting biting physical pain and mental fatigue. Those final 90 mins were harder than anything I’ve done in a long time. I had to use all my willpower and focus training (thanks meditation & Calm) to keep myself going.
Yet, there were no ‘peak’ incidents of pain or suffering during the marathon – just a long period of struggle. So the brain, using system 1, ranked the marathon below yesterday’s cleaning session in effort. Duration neglect + peak-end rule!
My (self) training on biases kicked in quickly. Almost immediately after I answered ‘yeah’, I corrected myself ‘this is not even close’.
- Since the marathon post isn’t up yet: I ran the London marathon last Sunday. I’m still recovering. ↩