To learn from mistakes: We hear the saying “You learn from mistakes” all our lives – from colleagues, family, friends. A study doubts that this is true: According to their own mistakes, a mechanism is used above all.
who does not know it: After weeks of waiting, the feedback is on a job application in the mailbox. Hope is high, nervousness is increasing. “Unfortunately we chose another applicant.” The cancellation is a blow to the stomach. We suffer setbacks not only at work , but also in private life. Of course, because mistakes are human.
Family and friends then often seek consoling words: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!” And “You learn from mistakes!” – recognized wisdom that is passed on from generation to generation and is part of the standard program for many motivational coaches. After defeats, they should show: Don’t worry, every mistake takes you further.
A “culture of failure” is demanded from all sides . Mistakes do us no good at all – on the contrary, a study by Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach from the University of Chicago shows.
“Our society celebrates failure as an instructive moment,” the psychologists write in the paper that was published in the journal Psychological Science . However, the result of five experiments offers a different reality: failure inhibits the learning process. However, success would bring us further.
Success helps the learning process
For the study, participants were asked questions with two possible answers. Immediately afterwards they received the feedback: error feedback for some, success feedback for others. The correct answer was given to both groups.
In subsequent tests, the effect was shown: the participants who answered correctly noticed the content more easily. “This effect was repeated in all professional, linguistic and social areas,” says the report. Even though learning from mistakes is less cognitively demanding.
How do the scientists explain these observations? They come to the conclusion that negative emotions are to blame, because if we fail, fear of failure will spread. People would perceive a mistake as a “threat to their ego” and would rather shut the Scots – they no longer pay attention. The result: According to the scientists, information that would not be taken into account could not lead to learning success.
We learn from others mistakes
With this assessment, they complement existing motivational theories that negative feedback undermines people’s confidence in their own abilities and lowers their expectations of success.
But in fact, according to the study, there are also mistakes that can help a person: namely those of others. As soon as concerns about one’s own wellbeing are out of the question, helpful conclusions could be drawn from the failure of our fellow human beings.
Whether and how much success or defeat will advance the individual will surely keep science busy. In their report, Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach also refer to previous studies that show that people react more strongly to negative impulses than to positive ones – in a way that can certainly promote learning processes.
Furthermore, if the two limit their results, the extent of the failure can be so great that it is hardly possible to hide it. Say: Whoever injures himself tries to avoid the circumstances that led to it.
Ignoring his mistakes is definitely not the way to go, the psychologists say. Because if you don’t care about your mistakes, you can’t learn from them.
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