Psychology researchers have found that whether an individual is an optimist or a pessimist is largely determined by expectations rather than actual outcomes. scientific progress.
There are different ways that individuals learn from false expectations. Some have an optimistic outlook, while others have a more pessimistic approach to life. In a recent study, researchers analyzed how predictions and expectations influence an individual’s mood and outlook in a controlled laboratory setting.
“Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are always shaping our expectations,” said senior author Aaron Heller, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami, in a press release. “Whenever our expectations turn out to be wrong, it becomes a learning signal and is used to form better expectations in the future.”
While previous prediction error studies have used lab-simulated scenarios, Heller and his team analyzed student expectations for test performance while attending a chemistry course at the University of Miami. decided to take a more naturalistic approach.
Student participants agreed to share grades from four exams taken during the semester. After each exam, students sent Heller and his team the grades they expected to get on that exam. Small studies examining how individuals learn from violated expectations have shown that people exhibit a so-called ‘optimistic learning bias’. This means that we tend to learn more from positive surprises than from negative surprises.
In their study, Heller found similar results. In general, most students exhibited an optimistic learning bias of learning more when they performed better than expected on exams than when they received lower than expected scores. But there was another group of students who were consistently pessimistic throughout the semester.
“When more optimistic students received lower than expected scores, they changed their expectations appropriately, but did not overcorrect following these disappointments on the next exam.” , more pessimistic students were more likely to predict lower scores on subsequent exams, even if their final grades were slightly higher than expected. became more inaccurate and predicted whether students would develop symptoms of anxiety later in life, depending on how they learned.”
The findings suggest that an individual’s positive and negative emotions are influenced not only by the test scores received, but also by what they expected to receive.
“Helping people develop more accurate expectations is an important treatment option for things like anxiety and depression,” Heller said.
The way we learn from our mistakes can lead to anxiety. news release. University of Miami; January 10, 2023. Accessed January 17, 2023. https://news.miami.edu/as/stories/2023/01/how-we-learn-from-being-wrong-can-lead-to-anxiety.html