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Why it’s hard to learn from failure
Plus, how long does it take to love a song?
“The more we strive toward the goal of happiness, the more we undermine our ability to actually get there.” – Iris Mauss
Epic fail. Toni Morrison said that “failure is just information.” In other words, instead of beating ourselves up over our setbacks, we can use them to improve. A recent paper by psychologists Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach echoes this idea. The researchers “find that the information in failure is often high-quality information that can be used to predict success.” But it’s hard to extract data from failure for many reasons, one being that the information in failure isn’t as straightforward as the information in success. For example, if you win a soccer game, it’s easy to know what you did right. You scored a goal, you ran fast, you were a great dribbler. Next time, do that again. But if you lost that game, it’s harder to diagnose the problem. Maybe you weren’t fast enough or maybe your defense wasn’t good enough. It’s hard to really pinpoint what you need to do differently the next time you play. So how do we break this barrier? “Allocating more time to learning or engaging in fewer concurrent tasks may improve peoples’ ability to learn from failure,” the researchers write. In other words, free up your mental bandwidth so you can focus on the task at hand. Going back to our soccer example, that might mean trying to improve a single area at a time. It’s easier to extract the information you need from failure when you’re not trying to do too much at once.
Tune in, tune out. While some things might grow on you – television shows or certain types of food – it only takes a few seconds to know whether or not you like a song. In a new study, people listened to a song in its entirety or for just a few seconds. Then, they rated how much they enjoyed the song. Turns out, people pretty much felt the same way about songs no matter how long they listened to them or what parts of the song they heard. “This finding might have wide-ranging implications for our understanding of what properties of songs evoke certain emotions in listeners,” said study lead Pascal Wallisch. “The fact that a small excerpt is enough to tell us if we like it or hate it, suggests that we respond more to the general vibe that a song brings to us rather than its musical notes per se.”
Who you know. If you think about the people in your life, it’s likely that they share a lot in common with you. We often surround ourselves with people who are just like us, but there are powerful benefits to pushing back against this tendency. Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Feb 6: Many of us believe that hard work and persistence are key to achieving our goals. But is that true when it comes to the pursuit of happiness? This week, we kick off a month-long series we’re calling Happiness 2.0. We talk with psychologist Iris Mauss, who explains why happiness can seem more elusive the harder we chase it, and what we can do instead to build a lasting sense of contentment.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Feb 7: Julie's husband, Warren, was always her navigator on road trips. After he passed away, Julie got lost on her first trip without him. She started to panic until a kind stranger helped her get back on track.
Don’t forget to send us the story of your unsung hero! Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is only one time in your life when you’re twice as old as your child. When is that?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
You throw a ball as hard as you can and it comes back to you. Yet it doesn’t bounce off anything, there is nothing attached to it, and no one else catches or throws it back to you. How did this happen?
The answer: You threw it up in the air.
FROM THE TWITTERATI…
A MOMENT OF JOY
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