Researchers Challenge Notion That Failure Is a Reliable Teacher

The study revealed that participants often incorrectly assumed that people focus on and learn from their mistakes after experiencing failure.

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A new study indicates that the widely held belief that failure is an effective teacher may need reassessment.

The findings suggest that people often overestimate the chances of success following a failure, leading to a decreased willingness to assist those struggling.

The research team, comprising members from Northwestern, Cornell, Yale, and Columbia universities, analyzed data from various online surveys. The surveys included responses from more than 1,800 adults in the United States, predominantly aged 29 to 49.

The study, published online Monday by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, examined how individuals predict the resilience of professionals such as lawyers, teachers, and nurses. The study also included individuals with substance use disorders and heart conditions.

“The main finding is that people systematically — blissfully — overestimate the likelihood of resilience following failure,” according to the researchers.

The researchers found that when people believe those who have experienced setbacks will naturally grow from their failures, they are less inclined to offer help. This assumption fosters the belief that these issues will resolve themselves without intervention.

The study revealed that participants often incorrectly assumed that people focus on and learn from their mistakes after experiencing failure.

“We wanted to see if people think about resilience wrong,” lead author Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, told NBC News.

“People thought that tens of thousands of professionals who failed standardized tests would go on to pass (who don’t), that tens of thousands of people with drug addiction would get sober (who don’t), and that tens of thousands of individuals with heart failure would make major lifestyle changes to improve their health,” Ms. Eskreis-Winkler wrote.


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