Feeling Bad About your Failure may Lead to Success

Getting emotional on failure is good.


Failure, an important learning experience that can’t be mimicked anyway. It’s been said that ‘Success comes after failure’. This may be true, but we certainly don’t act like it. However, a new study shed light on it.

The study by the effective at performing better for the next task.

Professor Noelle Nelson said, “Understanding how performance differs when focusing on feelings versus thoughts could really impact the way people think about their failures or the way employers think about their employees’ failures.”

“Sometimes the literature has focused more on types of thoughts or types of emotions, but we were interested in the difference between a basic emotional versus cognitive response.”

Scientists conducted 3 experiments during the study. They involved undergraduate students and asked them to perform specified tasks.

During the 1st experiment, scientists asked students to browse the web for a blender. Students then asked to report the lowest price they found with the possibility of winning a cash prize. Although, the task was rigged. A computer would inform all participants that the lowest price was $3.27 less than what they found. All failed to win the $50 cash prize.

Later on, some participants asked to focus on emotions after knowing the results. Some of them even asked to think cognitively.

During the next similar task, participants who focused on their emotional response tend to fail less than those who emphasized a cognitive response. It suggests, focusing on feeling bad about a failure or thinking negative about that failure helps in guiding future decision-making in a positive way.

Nelson said, “I do think people will be surprised that allowing themselves to feel bad about a failure can improve performance more than thinking about that failure in some instances. The kinds of thoughts like rationalizing a failure people tend to come up with are sometimes counterproductive.”

“In this case, I see our findings being useful to consumers themselves, employers, teachers or anyone who deals with managing failure in decision-making. Someone like a manager or teacher would be able to guide employees and students in how they respond to failure, hopefully improving the way the next decision is made.”

Scientists are further planning to focus on isolating specific types of emotions and thoughts. They think specific emotions are more effective than others, and certain types of thoughts may hurt or help more than others.

Nelson said, “A natural tendency after failure is sometimes to suppress emotions and cognitively rationalize it, but if people know the possible negative effects of that behavior, they can override that natural tendency and focus on the negative feelings. That should lead to learning and future decision-making that is more positive.”

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