Hi Brian Carlson — firstly, apologies for the late reply: I’ve been teaching the entire weekend as only now I am able to pick up all the things (finally:)
The nature of expectations nudged me for a very long time too. Why do we form them? How do they change? What do they depend on? It took me quite a few years to investigate it until I finally got the point. We form expectations so our brain can predict the energy budget that will be needed for a certain activity. How cool is that? I wrote about it in another post: https://uxdesign.cc/the-nature-of-expectations-6c3f730c4dd0
I’ve been also digging deeper into what makes an experience memorable. Surely it depends on the amount of chemicals our body produces on the encounter. In the book “You brain at work” (highly recommended :) David Rock explains that we form memories when we either get a big shot of dopamine or other happiness chemicals or if we get a shot of cortisol (or other stress hormones). That’s cool, right, too? But what triggers more dopamine?
You are right here that some experiences (like your adventures with your friends) have a natural higher chance for inducing dopamine compared, let’s say, to the visit to the dentist. But still what intrigued me was this: are there universal aspects that give at least a chance for a memorable experience? This is another part of my investigation. I’ve written about it some time ago (https://medium.com/nyc-design/motivators-and-demotivators-for-experience-design-bf721cac28dd) but since then I got more data and updated the model. It seems from all the research I did so far that the ingredients of memorable experience are: empathy, magic (as it positive surprise and exceeding expectations), engagement and meaning. How does it sound to you?