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If You Get Emotional After Failure, This Study Will Come as a Big Relief

A recent study shows that emotional responses to failure may be more productive than you’d think. In fact, the researchers found that emotional responses were more effective than cognitive ones when it came to improving performance.
failure
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The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, the Ohio State University and Baba Shiv of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and published in The Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, involved three experiments. Undergraduate subjects were asked to perform tasks such as searching online for the lowest-priced blender. A prize of $50 was offered for students who found the best price. After each task was completed, the students were informed that lower-priced blender existed — in other words, that they had failed the test and missed out on the money.

They were then asked to focus on either their emotional or cognitive response to learning the results. In the next round, the emotional-response group tried harder to improve their results than the cognitive-response group.

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What Can We Learn From This Research

“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,” said Noelle Nelson, lead author of the study and assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior in the KU School of Business, in an interview with ScienceDaily. “The kinds of thoughts — like rationalizing a failure — people tend to come up with are sometimes counterproductive.”

Nelson said that she saw the results as being useful to “anyone who deals with managing failure in decision making,” including managers and teachers as well as consumers.

“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. ”

In other words, the next time you experience failure, don’t suppress the feelings that arise afterward or attempt to rationalize them into submission. They might help you to better channel your efforts the next time you’re faced with a similar problem.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think getting emotional after failure sets you up for success? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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