If you are a really emotional person, then this news might be really important for you. A recent research has found that emotional responses to failure rather than cognitive ones are more effective at improving people’s results for the next time they tackle the next related task.
Noelle Nelson, assistant professor of marketing and consumer behaviour in the KU School of Business, said, “Understanding how performance differs when focusing on feelings versus thoughts could really impact the way people think about their failures or the way employers think about their employees’ failures. Sometimes the literature has focused more on types of thoughts or types of emotions, but we were interested in the difference between a basic emotional versus cognitive response.”
The researchers conducted three experiments in which undergraduate students were required to perform tasks. In one, students were asked to search online for a blender and report the lowest price they could find with the possibility of winning a cash prize. The price search task was rigged, however, and a computer would inform all participants that the lowest price was USD 3.27 less than what they found. All failed to win the USD 50 cash prize.
Some participants were asked to focus on emotions as they learned the results and others their cognitive response, such as rationalising factors for why they didn’t succeed. During the next similar task, participants that focused on their emotional response to failing exerted more effort than those who emphasised a cognitive response.
Nelson shared, “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. The kinds of thoughts, like rationalising a failure, people tend to come up with are sometimes counterproductive.”
“In this case, I see our findings being useful to consumers, employers, teachers or anyone who deals with managing failure in decision-making. 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,” noted Nelson.
Future research could focus on separating specific types of emotions and thoughts because it may be that specific emotions are more effective than others, and certain types of thoughts may hurt or help more than others, she explained. Another piece of good news is the findings are easily applicable for people practising self-motivation techniques.
Nelson concluded by saying, “A natural tendency after failure is sometimes to suppress emotions and cognitively rationalise the failure. But if people know the possible negative effects of that behaviour, they can override that tendency and focus on the negative feelings. That should lead to learning and future decision-making that is more positive.” The study was published in Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.