Knowing something is ending makes it sweeter: study

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

If you're down to your last chocolate, it's not all bad news - it'll probably taste better than any of the previous ones, a study has found.

Psychologists discovered that knowing something is about to end makes us enjoy it all the more.

The US researchers fed men and women five small chocolates of different flavours and asked them to rate their enjoyment of each as they ate it.

The flavours were given in different orders and some were told when they were on their last chocolate, while others were not given any warning.

Those that were pre-warned found the last sweet much more tasty than the others, the journal Psychological Science reports. Asked which chocolate was their favourite, those who knew when they were on their last chocolate plumped for that one 66 per cent of the time.

In contrast, those who were unaware the sweet treats were going to end rated it top in only 22 per cent of cases.

The fact that the chocolates were rated one by one, rather than all together at the end of the experiment, means the results cannot be explained by difference in recall.

University of Michigan researcher Ed O'Brien said: "Endings affect us in lots of ways and one is this 'positivity effect'. It is something motivational. You think, 'I might as well reap the benefits of this experience even though it is going to end' or, 'I want to get something good out of this while I still can'."

It is also possible that we have become used to expecting endings to be happy.

"Many experiences have happy endings - from the movies and shows we watch to dessert at the end of the meal - and so many people may have a general expectation that things end well, which could bleed over into these unrelated or insignificant judgments,"O'Brien said.

He said the effect could also have negative consequences. For instance, the candidate who interviews first for a job may be viewed less favourably than the last in the room. And exam candidates may suffer from having their papers at the top of the pile for marking.

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