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I started a project late, I had three weeks to work on it, and I ended up submitting it the day after the deadline. I lost a golden opportunity, and I really want to make sure I learn from this experience. Is there research showing how one should view a personal mistake to most effectively learn from it?
- Think of the experience as terrible and completely my fault, for maximal pain for operant conditioning
- Think of the experience as not a big deal
- Think of the experience as only forgivable if I learn from it
- None of the above?
Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To.
As a business leader, I found that one of the scariest things to do was to give your people the freedom to make mistakes. While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. Scared as I was, I knew that truly great leaders found ways to allow their people to take these risks, and I genuinely wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to help my employees to grow. So I set out to discover how to accomplish this without placing my company in jeopardy.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” - Meg Cabot
I quickly discovered that the first step was to determine the areas of the business where a mistake could take place without causing too much damage. I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.
The second step was to communicate to the employees that we were setting an official company policy: Making any mistake once was OK, so long as it was an honest mistake made while attempting to do what they felt was the right thing. Making any mistake once was OK, but repeating that same mistake a second time was NOT OK. The hard, fast rule was that if you made any mistake for the first time the entire team would have your back in fixing that mistake if anything went wrong. However, if you ever repeated the mistake a second time, then you were 100 percent on your own to face the consequences. This rule applied for every first-time occurrence of each new mistake you made.
We all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person. As John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.
Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again.
1. Learn from them: Good employees recognize that they have, in fact, made an honest mistake. They do not get defensive about it, rather they are willing to look objectively at their mistake, recognize what they did wrong, and understand why their choice or actions were the wrong thing to do.
2. Own them: Good employees take accountability for their mistakes. They admit them readily. They don’t make excuses for their mistake, rather they acknowledge that yes, they made a mistake and they express openly what lesson they have learned from that mistake. They go on to express steps 3 and 4 below.
3. Fix them: Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right. Certainly there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done to the best of their ability. They always establish a timeline with follow up for when the problem will be fixed and make sure that progress is communicated throughout the process so everyone feels the urgency and care with which they are correcting the problem.
4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again: This is the most critical step in the learning process. When a mistake has clearly been made, the most important thing anyone can do is figure out what safety nets and roadblocks can be carefully established to ensure that this same mistake will never take place again. Document this step so the lessons learned and the safeguards setup can always go beyond you. Do everything in your power to help others learn from your mistake so they don’t have to experience them on their own to gain the lesson you’ve learned.
The steps to correcting mistakes apply to any area of life. Whether it’s business life or home life or personal life, the principles of apologizing remain the same. Good employees make a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes:
Great People Practice The Six A’s of a Proper Apology:
- Admit - I made a mistake.
- Apologize - I am sorry for making the mistake.
- Acknowledge - I recognize where I went wrong that caused my mistake to occur.
- Attest - I plan to do the following to fix the mistake on this specific timeline.
- Assure - I will put the following protections in place to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again.
- Abstain – Never repeat that same mistake twice.
People who implement the Six A’s will find that the level of trust and respect others have for them will grow tenfold. People who implement the Six A’s will find that others will be quicker to forgive them and more likely to extend a second chance. It’s not the making of a mistake that is generally the problem it’s what you do with it afterward that really counts.
Influence of Regret
Psychologists became interested in studying regret partly because it is a passive emotional reaction to bad decisions, but also because it is a major influence on day-to-day decision making. This influence can take two forms. First, the experience of regret may produce a behavioral inclination to reverse one’s decision or undo the consequences. Second, decision makers may anticipate possible future regret when making decisions, and choose in such a way that this future regret will be minimal.
The influence of experienced retrospective regret on ensuing behavior can be functional. The aversive experience prompts people to undo the cause of the regret. For example, after buying a product that proves to be suboptimal, regret can motivate a person to ask for his or her money back, or it may result in apologies in the case of interpersonal regrets. In both instances regret can help people satisfy their needs. It protects people from wasting money and helps them maintain good social relationships. In addition, regret can be functional in the sense that the painful self-reflective nature of the experience is one of various ways by which people learn. The feeling of regret over bad decisions and wrong choices makes them stand out in people’s memory and helps people make better decisions in the future. This is also shown by the finding that people tend to feel most regret about things that they can still improve in the future, sometimes referred to as the opportunity principle in regret. Another functional aspect of regret is that it stems from its influence on cognitions. Instead of going back to the shop to undo the regretted purchase or apologizing to the person central in the regret, the person can imagine various ways in which the current situation could have been more favorable to him or her. So regret motivates people to engage in reparative action and helps them remember their mistakes and missed opportunities by making cognitively available counterfactual worlds in which one would have arrived at a better outcome, it also prepares people to behave more appropriately when they are confronted with similar choices in the future.
The idea that people, when making decisions, might consider future emotional reactions to possible decision outcomes has some history in research on decision making, starting with economists studying rational choice in the early 1980s. We now know that the influence of anticipated future regret on current decision making can take several forms. First, people may avoid deciding so they can avoid making the wrong decision. However, this inactive attitude may result in regret as well because in the long run inactions produce most regret. People may also avoid or delay their decisions because they want to gather more information so they can make better decisions.
Another way in which anticipated regret can influence decision making is related to post-decisional feedback. Regret stems from comparisons between outcomes of the chosen and nonchosen options, so decision makers can try to avoid regret by avoiding feedback about nonchosen options. In real-life decisions, people may occasionally receive information about foregone outcomes. For example, people choosing to invest in particular stocks will learn about future stock prices for the chosen stocks, but also for the nonchosen stocks. Likewise, gamblers who decide not to bet on the long shot in a horse race will learn after the race is over the position at which this horse finished and, thus, whether this option would have been better. In these cases, one can expect to feel regret if the decision goes awry. For some quite important life decisions, however, such feedback is often not present. If a person decides to go into business with someone or to marry someone, the person will never find out how successful each enterprise would have been had he or she chosen another partner or spouse, or none at all. In these cases, there is only feedback on the chosen option.
The knowledge that this future feedback will or will not be present influences current decision making, as revealed in the following example. Imagine that you have the choice between a sure $100 or a 50% chance of $200 (depending on the toss of a coin). If you opt for the sure thing (the $100), you normally do not learn whether the gamble (the 50% of winning $200) would have been better. If you opt for the gamble, you will always learn the outcome of the gamble and the outcome of the sure thing. Hence, you will always know whether the sure thing would have been better. Thus, the sure thing protects you from regret, whereas the gamble carries some risk of regret. In this case, the anticipation of regret promotes a preference for the sure thing, revealing risk aversion. However, when the outcome of the gamble will become known irrespective of one’s choice (e.g., the coin will always be tossed), one may also end up regretting the choice for the sure $100. This may lead to an increased preference for the gamble, revealing risk seeking. Thus, the anticipation of regret may produce risk-seeking and risk-avoiding choices, depending on which alternative minimizes the future regret. Research has shown that these anticipations of regret can influence many real-life decisions, such as stock market investments, salary negotiations, lottery play, prenatal screening decisions, and condom use.
The Structure of LTM: Categories, Prototypes, and Schemas
Memories that are stored in LTM are not isolated but rather are linked together into categories A network of associated memories that have features in common with each other. —networks of associated memories that have features in common with each other. Forming categories, and using categories to guide behavior, is a fundamental part of human nature. Associated concepts within a category are connected through spreading activation, which occurs when activating one element of a category activates other associated elements. For instance, because tools are associated in a category, reminding people of the word “screwdriver” will help them remember the word “wrench.” And, when people have learned lists of words that come from different categories (e.g., as in Note 8.33 "Retrieval Demonstration"), they do not recall the information haphazardly. If they have just remembered the word “wrench,” they are more likely to remember the word “screwdriver” next than they are to remember the word “dahlia,” because the words are organized in memory by category and because “dahlia” is activated by spreading activation from “wrench” (Srull & Wyer, 1989). Srull, T., & Wyer, R. (1989). Person memory and judgment. Psychological Review, 96(1), 58–83.
Some categories have defining features that must be true of all members of the category. For instance, all members of the category “triangles” have three sides, and all members of the category “birds” lay eggs. But most categories are not so well-defined the members of the category share some common features, but it is impossible to define which are or are not members of the category. For instance, there is no clear definition of the category “tool.” Some examples of the category, such as a hammer and a wrench, are clearly and easily identified as category members, whereas other members are not so obvious. Is an ironing board a tool? What about a car?
Members of categories (even those with defining features) can be compared to the category prototype The member of the category that is most average or typical of the category. , which is the member of the category that is most average or typical of the category. Some category members are more prototypical of, or similar to, the category than others. For instance, some category members (robins and sparrows) are highly prototypical of the category “birds,” whereas other category members (penguins and ostriches) are less prototypical. We retrieve information that is prototypical of a category faster than we retrieve information that is less prototypical (Rosch, 1975). Rosch, E. (1975). Cognitive representations of semantic categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 192–233.
Mental categories are sometimes referred to as schemas A pattern of knowledge in long-term memory that helps us organize information. —patterns of knowledge in long-term memory that help us organize information. We have schemas about objects (that a triangle has three sides and may take on different angles), about people (that Sam is friendly, likes to golf, and always wears sandals), about events (the particular steps involved in ordering a meal at a restaurant), and about social groups (we call these group schemas stereotypes).
Schemas are important in part because they help us remember new information by providing an organizational structure for it. Read the following paragraph (Bransford & Johnson, 1972) Bransford, J. D., & Johnson, M. K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 717–726. and then try to write down everything you can remember.
The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups. Of course, one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities, that is the next step otherwise you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run this may not seem important, but complications can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well. At first the whole procedure will seem complicated. Soon, however, it will become just another facet of life. It is difficult to foresee any end to the necessity for this task in the immediate future, but then one never can tell. After the procedure is completed, one arranges the materials into different groups again. Then they can be put into their appropriate places. Eventually they will be used once more and the whole cycle will then have to be repeated. However, that is part of life.
It turns out that people’s memory for this information is quite poor, unless they have been told ahead of time that the information describes “doing the laundry,” in which case their memory for the material is much better. This demonstration of the role of schemas in memory shows how our existing knowledge can help us organize new information, and how this organization can improve encoding, storage, and retrieval.
2. The Left-to-Right Theory
This theory comes to complete the previous one.
If the first theory talked about how to create content to receive a certain reaction, this theory is about how to place content to receive the necessary reaction.
In cognitive psychology, this theory belongs to the study of perception. “The left-to-right theory claims that people mostly perceive information from left to right and from top to bottom”, says Melanie Sovann, a researcher at Studicus, an online educational platform.
Why mostly? While the top-to-bottom part of this theory is true to everyone, not all audiences perceive information from left to right.
It is well-known that Arabic readers, for instance, perceive information from right to left, as it is characteristic of their writing style. But even if the direction of writing is a point to argue in this theory, the placement of information from top to bottom is universal for everyone.
This theory is also employed in creating a mind map of the future design. With this theory in mind, you can create an order of the items, which you will later follow to improve navigation.
Stay on Task
It is easy for teachers to get distracted and veer off topic from time to time. There are some students who, frankly, are masters at making this happen. They are able to engage a teacher in a conversation about a personal interest or tell a funny story that captivates the classes attention but keeps them from completing the lessons and activities scheduled for the day. To maximize student learning time, teachers must maintain control of the pace and flow of the environment. While no teacher wants to miss out on a teachable moment, you don't want to chase rabbits either.
Teen brains may have an advantage — better learning
The teen brain is sensitive to positive feedback. These mental high-fives might help them learn some tasks faster and better than adults
October 28, 2016 at 6:00 am
Teens can get a bad rap for their behavior. They tend to be more sensitive to rewards than to punishments. Indeed, teens tend to seek out rewards more than do adults or young kids. Those reward-seeking behaviors can cause nightmares for the adults in their lives. But a teen’s big interest in rewards might have an upside, a new study finds. Teens may tap it to learn some new things better than adults do.
The adolescent brain has a lot going on, notes Juliet Davidow. She’s a psychologist — someone who studies the mind — at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Teen bodies are growing, she says. Their minds are too. A brain “changes just like the rest of the body changes,” she explains.
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In a teen’s body, the hands and feet may grow bigger first, leaving the rest of the body to catch up. The brain is no different. Some of its areas mature early. These include the striatum (Stry-AY-tum), which recognizes rewards. The prefrontal cortex, which helps in decision making, matures later.
This means teens tend to be find rewards super enticing. At the same time, teens often fail to plan — especially during times of stress.
B.J. Casey is a neuroscientist — someone who studies the brain — at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The media and the public often depict the teen brain as a defective car, she notes. The describe it as having “no steering wheel and no brakes, just an accelerator.” Many scientists, including Casey, think that metaphor is not fair.
The characterization also didn’t make sense to Davidow. “There’s been a negative focus on adolescents as poor decision-makers,” she says. She wondered if their focus on rewards might actually help teens learn from important experiences. For instance, might it help if them remember good experiences more easily than other age groups? If it did, that might be valuable for gaining information that would prove important later in life.
Peering into the teenage brain
To find out how teen memories compared to adults, Davidow and her colleagues recruited 41 teens, ages 13 to 17, for tests. Fourteen were girls. They also recruited 31 adults, ages 20 to 30 (18 were women). All were presented with choices on a computer of two flowers and a butterfly. Each person had to guess which type of flower the butterfly liked best. When they got it right, “correct” would flash across the screen. Make a mistake and the computer would report they were “incorrect.”
Accompanying each answer would be a picture of something completely pointless. It might be a birdhouse, for instance, or a hammer. These pictures were not connected to the test. They were just randomly presented along with the “correct” or “incorrect.”
Story continues below image.
Teens and adults had to pick which flower a butterfly preferred (left). When they found out if their choice was correct, they saw an unrelated item as well (here, the birdhouse). Later, participants were asked to remember whether they had seen some of these unrelated images before — and how sure they were about that. Fig. 1, Davidow et al/Neuron 2016
Then it was on to the next butterfly and pair of flowers.
Such a test is known as a reinforcement learning task. That means the test-takers first get reinforcement from learning if their answer had been right or wrong. They then learned from that to make the right choices later when they again saw that same pairings of butterfly and flower.
But in this case, the scientists also gave the participants a different memory test. A computer showed each person the seemingly irrelevant objects that it earlier had flashed up during the “correct” or “incorrect” judgements. The test then asked if the test-taker had seen the objects before, and how confident they were that they had.
Both teens and adults remembered the objects better when they had gotten questions about the pairings right than when they had erred. But teens mastered this faster than adults did. They also remembered the irrelevant items — the birdhouses and hammers — better when they were surprised by their feedback. Maybe they expected to get something wrong but got it right. When they did, the teens developed a stronger memory than the adults had.
Davidow and her colleagues placed 25 of the teens and 22 of the adults into an fMRI scanner as those recruits played the game. This machine uses strong magnets to measure the blood flow in a body part. The researchers scanned the test-takers’ brains as they were given the memory test. An increase of blood flow would point to those areas at work during the task.
Here, Davidow was especially interested in looking for where brain activity rose (or fell) at the same time in different regions during these tasks. When blood flow rises at the same time in two areas for the same task, she explains, “it suggests they are working together to get the thing done.”
Scientists Say: fMRI
Davidow focused on the striatum (or reward center) and hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. In teens who learned better, both regions lit up on the scans at the same time. That indicated their activity was connected.
The striatum was more sensitive in teens than in adults’ to the test’s reinforcement — their learning from a right or wrong answer. While this was happening, their hippocampuses were taking note.
Davidow and her colleagues published their results in Neuron on October 5.
This paper “provides a really nice suggestion for what may be the possible benefits for the increase in reward sensitivity during adolescence,” says Noa Ofen. She’s a psychologist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. What the teens remembered — random birdhouses and hammers — weren’t part of their original task, she notes. It is therefore not clear if the right and wrong responses cemented those images, or if it was something else. “So whether one successfully encodes them or not is not the result of learning through reinforcement,” she challenges. It’s more a byproduct of the task. And even if teens did remember that random information better, she asks, would that truly be useful?
Ofen hopes that more studies will look at precisely how laying down new memories differs in teens and adults.
It would be nice to see just how teen-specific this effect is, says Casey at Yale. But it’s also good to see the teenage brain studied as a stage in development, looking at both pros and cons. It’s more useful than merely characterizing it as a brain run amok.
“I love this kind of work,” she says. “It’s great to show who teens are and what they can do.” And it’s also good to show that the development quirks in the teen brain that give adults fits might have an upside after all.
(for more about Power Words, click here)
adolescence A transitional stage of physical and psychological development that begins at the onset of puberty, typically between the ages of 11 and 13, and ends with adulthood.
behavior The way a person or other organism acts towards others, or conducts itself.
colleague Someone who works with another a co-worker or team member.
cortex The outermost layer of neural tissue of the brain.
development (in biology) The growth of an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size and sometimes even shape.
encode (adj. encoded) To use some code to mask a message.
feedback A process or combination of process that propel or exaggerate a change in some direction. For instance, as the cover of Arctic ice disappears with global warming, less of the sun&rsquos warming energy will be reflected back into space. This will serve to increase the rate of Earth&rsquos warming. That warming might trigger some feedback (like sea-ice melting) that fosters additional warming.
fMRI (for functional magnetic resonance imaging) A special type of scanning machine used to study brain activity. It monitors blood flow in the brain using a strong magnetic field. Tracking the movement of blood can tell researchers which brain regions are active.
hippocampus A seahorse-shaped region of the brain. It is thought to be the center of emotion, memory and the involuntary nervous system.
mature (noun) An adult individual. (verb) The process of growth and development that occurs as an individual moves toward adulthood.
media (in the social sciences) A term for the ways information is delivered and shared within a society. It encompasses not only the traditional media &mdash newspapers, magazines, radio and television &mdash but also Internet- and smartphone-based outlets, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more. The newer, digital media are sometimes referred to as social media. The singular form of this term is medium.
neuroscientist Someone who studies the structure or function of the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
prefrontal cortex A region containing some of the brain&rsquos gray matter. Located behind the forehead, it plays a role in making decisions and other complex mental activities, in emotions and in behaviors.
psychologist A scientist or mental-health professional who studies the human mind, especially in relation to actions and behavior.
random Something that occurs haphazardly or without reason, based on no intention or purpose.
reinforcement Some consequence that guides the future behavior of an animal or person. If a rat presses a lever and receives a food pellet, that food pellet becomes a reinforcement of lever-pushing &mdash it&rsquos the reward that will teach the rat to press the lever again.
reinforcement learning An approach to teaching in which an animal or a person learns to perform a specific task to achieve a desired reward.
reward (In studies of behavior) A stimulus, such as a tasty food pellet, that is offered to an animal or person to get them to change their behavior or learn a task.
scanner A machine that runs some sort of light (which includes anything from X-rays to infrared energy) over a person or object to get a succession of images. When a computer brings these images together, they can provide a motion picture of something or can offer a three-dimensional view through the target. Such systems are often used to see inside the human body or solid objects without breaching their surface.
stress (in biology) A factor, such as unusual temperatures, moisture or pollution, that affects the health of a species or ecosystem. (in psychology) A mental, physical, emotional, or behavioral reaction to an event or circumstance, or stressor, that disturbs a person or animal&rsquos usual state of being or places increased demands on a person or animal psychological stress can be either positive or negative.
tissue Any of the distinct types of material, comprised of cells, which make up animals, plants or fungi. Cells within a tissue work as a unit to perform a particular function in living organisms. Different organs of the human body, for instance, often are made from many different types of tissues. And brain tissue will be very different from bone or heart tissue.
About Bethany Brookshire
Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.
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A mistake you do not learn from is a mistake you will repeat
From the moment we are born, we start realizing that failing is a way of finding truth in the medium and long term. The first years of our life, we are constantly failing, but over time, we start to recognize the fruits of our failures, with a more intense and lasting taste. When we get older, the consequences become more complicated, which does not mean that the process is completely invalid.
These consequences are also tied to the positive side that we can find in those circumstances. That is to say, the mistakes with the most negative consequences also tend to be the ones that have a great ability to transform us. In this sense, we must not forget that the very process of accepting consequences can also be a great lesson, not just the failure in and of itself.
“‘Mistakes,’ he said with effort, ‘are also important to me. I don’t cross them out of my life, or memory. And I never blame others for them.’”
We learn to store our bad experiences together in a box that has the label “do not repeat.” However, these mistaken strategies sometimes escape from that box, luckily: just because they did not work in one set of circumstances does not mean that they do not work in others. Maybe we are not prepared at 18 to start our own business, but we could be at 30. Along the way, we will have gathered experience and learned from the right and wrong things that our bosses have done.
Creating Nostalgia Advertising Based on the Reminiscence Bump
A study done by Ju, Choi, Morris, Liao, & Bluck (2016) examined diachronic relevance and its influence on purchase intent. According to the article, marketing researchers have started a new trend of using nostalgic advertising to sell a variety of products. The purpose of this type of advertising is to elicit positive feelings by helping the consumer remember past life phases. Research suggests that people have a reminiscence bump, an increased recollection for events from adolescence and early adulthood (Goldstein, 2011). Marketing researchers argue that “reminiscence bump memories are likely to evoke stronger reactions as compared with other periods in one’s past and are a good candidate for use in nostalgic advertising” (Ju, Choi, Morris, Liao, & Bluck, 2016). The purpose of the study was to examine whether reminiscence bump-focused advertising elicits more favorable reactions and better marketing outcomes across baby boomers and Generation X.
They gathered 168 participants, representing the two age groups. The mean age for Generation X was 33 and for the late stage baby boomers the mean age was 53. They used a 3 (advertisement time frame: reminiscence bump, non-bump past, present) X 2 (age group: Generation X, late-stage baby boomers) between-participants design. For the bump condition, participants looked at an advertisement focused on when they were 15-24 years old. For the non-bump past condition, participants looked at an advertisement focused on when they were 26-34 years old. The present-focused condition gave the year 2014, which was the control condition.
They found that reminiscence bump-focused advertising elicit greater purchase intent than either non-bump past advertisements or present-focused advertisements. Participants in this study felt more positively engaged at present and more positively viewed their past when viewing advertisements from the bump years. This study was quite interesting to me because it shows how the reminiscence bump can have an effect on what we buy today. To give an example, when I was younger, there was a game called ‘Skip-It’ where you put a hoop around your ankle and skip over the ball that was attached to it. When I was watching television a few days ago, a commercial came on for one and it brought back so many positive memories about my childhood when my friends and I spent countless hours playing with it. I had the urge to buy one, which strengthens the findings from this study. By using reminiscence bump-focused advertising, stores would earn more money and consumers would have bought something that would help them to fondly remember the past.
Ju, I., Choi, Y., Morris, J., Liao, H., & Bluck, S. (2016). Creating nostalgic advertising based on the reminiscence bump: Diachronic relevance and purchase intent. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(3), 465-471. doi:10.1002/acp.3210
Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning
Making mistakes while studying actually helps you learn better
When learning something new, there are instances where trial and error helps rather than hinders, according to recent findings by Baycrest researchers.
Contrary to popular belief, when a person makes a mistake while learning, it improves their memory for the right information, but only if the error is close to the correct answer, according to a study published in the journal, Memory.
"Our research found evidence that mistakes that are a 'near miss' can help a person learn the information better than if no errors were made at all," says Dr. Nicole Anderson, senior author on the paper and senior scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute. "These types of errors can serve as stepping stones to remembering the right answer. But if the error made is a wild guess and out in left field, then a person does not learn the correct information as easily."
These findings could help with improving education for not only younger adults, but also late-life learners.
In one of the studies reported in the paper, researchers recruited 32 young adults with no Spanish background to guess the English definition of certain Spanish words. The Spanish words selected either resembled an English word with a similar meaning (such as careera, which means degree) or the word looked like an English word, but meant something different (such as carpeta, which resembles carpet, but means folder).
Participants were shown the Spanish words and asked to guess its meaning. Then, they were briefly shown the correct translation, before being shown another Spanish word. After repeating this process with 16 Spanish words, participants had a short break before their memory for the translations was tested.
Researchers found that people were better able to remember the correct translations for Spanish words that were similar to the English word. They had greater difficulty recalling the meaning for words that looked misleading.
"Based on these findings, someone studying for an exam should only take practice quizzes after reviewing the material," says Dr. Anderson, who is also an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Toronto. "If a person takes a practice test and is unfamiliar with the content, they risk making guesses that are nowhere near the right answer. This could make it harder for them to learn the correct information later."
Even if a person makes a mistake while testing themselves, as long as their error is close to the right answer, they're more likely to remember the right information, adds Dr. Anderson.
As next steps, the team is studying the brain activity of people when they make "near miss" and "out in left field" types of errors during learning. Their work strives to uncover how these different mistakes impact a person's brain function when they try to remember the correct information.