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Surprising Science

Optimistic Versus Pessimistic Brains

People who think they can learn from their errors have a different brain reaction to making mistakes than people who think intelligence is fixed. The former group bounces back better. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Whether you think you can learn from a mistake may influence your ability to make better decisions in the future, suggests a recent study to be published in Psychological Science. Researchers studied how the brain reacts to mistakes in two different groups of people: Those who think intelligence is malleable and those who think it is predetermined and fixed. By giving individuals a simple task in which it was easy to make a mistake, the researchers were able to see differences in the brain activity among the two groups of people. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The differences in the cerebral reactions between the two groups of people translated to important behavioral differences: Individuals who thought of intelligence as malleable were more likely to bounce back from their errors and pay more attention to their behavior in the future. In short, they monitored themselves for mistakes while individuals who thought of intelligence as fixed were resigned to repeating the same errors in the future. The research could help show people that they can learn more by understanding how their brain reacts to mistakes.


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