Last is best

The song goes “you always save the best til last”. This idea of the last time something happens being the best time is not new but is it valid psychologically? That is what some researchers wanted to find out.

To test the idea subjects were asked to take five chocolates from a pocket hidden inside a bag. The five chocolates included almond, caramel, crème, dark, and milk. Each chocolate had to be rated from zero to ten with ten being the tastiest. The participants were divided into two groups.

One group were told before each chocolate “here is the next one” but before the fifth chocolate they were told “here is the last one”. In the second group no mention was ever made of the “last one”.

In the group who were told that the fifth chocolate would be the last one, that fifth chocolate was rated as the best 64 per cent of the time. In the group where only “here is the next one” was used, the fifth chocolate was only rated as best 22 per cent of the time.

It is all based on wanting to get something good out of a thing while you can. There is also the fact that in our society we tend to believe in “happy endings”.

It’s true then, even though it might only be a perceptual thing, we do save the best til last. That is why that farewell concert, last big game, or kiss of goodbye on a train platform carries such an impact. Maybe that’s why the likes of Dame Nellie Melba and John “The Voice” Farnham have given so many “final” concerts; they get to experience the “best” over and over. There could also be worrying implications for exam markers or job interviewers who might be prejudiced toward final exam papers or applicants. “Last is best” might also explain phenomena like “break-up sex” …but we won’t go there.

By the way, this is the last time we will be publishing this news column.

Just kidding!

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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