Don't fear mistakes: Your brain learns best from failures

  • IANS, New York
  • Updated: Aug 27, 2015 15:46 IST
The brain has two ways of learning, one is avoidance learning in which negative experiences train the brain to avoid repeating mistakes. The other is reward-based learning in which the brain feels rewarded for right answers. (Shutterstock Photo)

If you are afraid of failure, here's news that will make you forget your hesitation for making mistakes. Researchers have revealed that if your brain gets a chance to learn from its mistakes, it will turn failures in life into positive experiences.

It has been known for long that brain learns in two ways, the Scientists have long understood it.

One is avoidance learning which is a punishing, negative experience that trains the brain to avoid repeating mistakes. The other is reward-based learning, a positive, reinforcing experience in which the brain feels rewarded for reaching the right answer.

"We show that in certain circumstances, when we get enough information to contextualise the choices, then our brain essentially reaches towards the reinforcement mechanism, instead of turning toward avoidance,” explains Giorgio Coricelli, associate professor of economics and psychology at University of Southern California.

For the study, researchers engage 28 young people in a series of questions that challenge them to maximise their gains by providing the right answers.

Read: Can your kid's 'lazy eye' lead to a brain disorder?

If they choose a wrong answer, they lose money, while right answers help them earn money.

One trial prompts their brains to respond to getting the wrong answer with avoidance learning.

A second trial prompts a reward-based learning reaction and a third trial tests whether participants have learned from their mistakes.

In that third round, the participants respond positively, activating areas in their brains that some scientists call the 'reward circuit'.

This experience mimicks the brain's reward-based learning response - as opposed to an avoidance-learning response.

This process is similar to what the brain experiences when feeling regret.

"With regret, for instance, if you have done something wrong, then you might change your behaviour in the future," the authors note in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

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