Learn from Your Mistakes – Or Don’t
Psychologists are discovering that attitude is often a self-fulfilling prophesy. Richard Wiseman pointed out, for example, that if you feel you are lucky you will, in fact, have more “luck.” Specifically, you will create opportunities, you will take opportunities, and you will try harder because you are optimistic about the future. You will, in essence, make your own luck.
There is no magical “secret” to this effect, and no, you cannot change the world simply by wishful thinking. But your attitude and beliefs about yourself affect how you behave, and sometimes attitudes become self-fulfilling. The general principle seems to be – that it is better to be optimistic than pessimistic.
A new study is in line with this principle. Researchers in this case focused on attitudes regarding the ability to learn from one’s mistakes. They gave subjects a simple test – identifying the letter in the middle of a five-letter sequence. This is an easy task, but when done over and over eventually people make mistakes. The research focused on how they react when such mistakes occur. Some individuals seemed to learn from their mistakes, increase their effort, and improve later performance. Others did not recover from the mistake and improve their later performance.
These behaviors correlated with the subjects’ attitudes. Those who felt they could learn from their mistakes, did. Those who felt that intelligence and performance are fixed characteristics did not improved their performance after the error. Again – these attitudes appear to be self-fulfilling.