Thursday, July 30, 2009

we learn from successes not failures

It's in the news! Science news. An article has just come out at Science Daily that says brain cells react and learn from successes. "After a failure, there was little or no change in the brain — nor was there any improvement in behavior."

From the article, it seems the research was done on animals, such as monkeys. I wouldn't be surprised if the results were different for humans because humans have more emotional feelings.

Of course, our objective is to learn how to do something correctly, not incorrectly.

Another thing to note is that the animals only knew if they had responded correctly when they were rewarded. So in this study rewards were given. Maybe we learn better if we get rewarded, I'm not sure. But the tests were too simple. Scientists are still studying the very basics and using simple little tests. But at least they are looking at the brain and seeing what does happen. If you read the article, think about how the brain is learning naturally and on its own.

When we study a language, our reward is being able to understand. But what makes a reward rewarding? Is looking up a translation in the dictionary rewarding? When excitement is created, that is rewarding. Using a dictionary is hardly exciting. But understanding on your own is exciting. It's a great reward.

Here's a link to the article: Why We Learn More From Our Successes Than Our Failures

What do you think about the article? Do you have any praises or criticisms? Is the study relevant to language learning?


  1. I disagree. As humans, we should be able to have cognitions on a higher level than other animals. Unlike a monkey, we have the ability to adapt our thinking and have a point of view. If you change the way you view failures, such as not understanding something, and see it as a successful thing because you are spending that time improving afterall, then you revert what some would consider a failure into a form of success.

  2. If i'm just looking up one word, i don't have much enthusiasm for the dictionary, but i actually can get a lot of enjoyment from surfing through the dictionary. I follow whatever interests me, from one entry to the next looking at any word i want. There are lots of interesting things in there, if you look without any real purpose. Pure curiousity can be quite satisfying.

  3. Hey Keith, great post.

    Memorising words bores me - but if I can see a 'pattern' in the words, I find that very satisfying. And by seeing that pattern, I can learn several words with the effort of just learning a couple. That's 'success' to me.

    So I started thinking in terms of what I call WordPacks, and you can see a couple of examples here and here.


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