The reward areas of the brain activate when people learn from their mistakes, a new study finds.
People normally feel bad about mistakes and try to avoid them in future.
But sometimes we need to make mistakes in order to learn and improve.
Now neuroscientists have found that if people are given the opportunity to reflect, they could feel good about their mistakes.
Dr Giorgio Coricelli, one of the study’s authors, said:
“We show that, in certain circumstances, when we get enough information to contextualize the choices, then our brain essentially reaches towards the reinforcement mechanism, instead of turning toward avoidance.”
So, after reflecting positively on mistakes, people may not be so averse to trying something new.
In the research, people answered questions which they either got right or wrong.
Naturally, people felt bad when they got them wrong and the areas of the brain related to avoidance activated.
Subsequently, though, people were given a chance to review their mistakes.
Scientists found that people’s brain responded positively when reflecting.
Brain scans revealed the ‘reward circuit’ activating during the review.
This suggested that even mistakes can feel rewarding, given time for reflection.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications (Palminteri et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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