Source: Harvard Business Review, January-February 2010
The brain can rewire itself in response to experience – this is called neuroplasticity.
A team at MIT has documented one type of environmental feedback that triggers plasticity: success.
Equally important and surprising: its opposite, failure, has no impact.
Understanding the link to environmental feedback is crucial to improving how people teach and motivate because it’s a big part of how we learn.
But we absorb more from success than from failure, according to the study.
Where the brain tracks success and failure, sharpened their tuning after success.
Those changes making brain activity more efficient next time the monkey did the task.
But after failure, there was little change in brain activity. The brain did not store any information about what went wrong and use it the next time.
This means that, success is a lot more informative than failure. If you get a reward, the brain remembers what it did right. But with failure, unless there is a clear negative consequence, the brain isn’t sure what to store, so it doesn’t change at all.
The brain will learn from success, and you don’t need to dwell on that. You need to pay more attention to failures and challenge why you fail.