Psychology Today: What exactly do we learn from failure?

08 Sep 2023
New research shows that failure can teach us proverb-like simple rules.

Originally found at Psychology Today

We humans don’t learn as easily as we should. We learn better from direct experience than from others. And we learn better from failure than from success. Why is that? What exactly do we learn after things go south? And, most importantly, can we catalyze our learning from failure? Our recent research suggests that we can.

Aside from what evolution taught us as a species, we continuously learn throughout our lives, either from direct experience or socially, from others. Learning socially—from those close to us, from books, from peers, or from experts—should be our go-to strategy: it’s easier, cheaper, and we have billions of humans on the planet to use as information sources. Unfortunately, what we learn from others does not stick so easily, so the important things we must learn by ourselves.

...Not only must we experience a situation ourselves, but, unfortunately, that situation must be painful to teach us something. As one of our respondents admitted, “All the things I have learned, I learned after banging my head against the wall.” A study published in (Academy of Management Journal) 2010 by Madsen and Desai also shows that failure teaches us better than success. Moreover, it shows that lessons from success are much easier forgotten.

Continue reading the original article at Psychology Today.

Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal.