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Negative Feedback, Positive Lessons



In the battle against plastic bags, a five-cent tax was shown to be much more successful at deterring usage than a five-cent credit for bringing your own bags. Carrots satisfy but sticks sting, and they sting hard. So we default to the less painful choice of avoiding loss.

Loss aversion impacts the way we process information. A 2019 study invited participants to learn through a series of multiple choice questions. Each question only had two options to choose from. Whether guessing correctly or not, they would still learn the right answer. 

Despite the identical learning opportunity, participants were much more successful at recalling the answers they guessed correctly than those they got wrong. 

"You're right!" feels good. We savour the moment, analyzing every detail. 

"You're wrong!" stings. We want to quickly forget, dismiss, and move on. 

When we succumb to loss aversion, we miss opportunities to learn. Failure is part of the process. We'll experience many more setbacks than we do wins. If we only learn from positive feedback, we miss a lot along the way. 

Failing is not the problem, failing to learn is. 



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