Miami — We all have our own unique ways of looking at the world around us, and those perceptions inevitably come with expectations. Some people are forced to take a pessimistic view. Now, researchers at the University of Miami say that the way we process and deal with false expectations seems to predict anxiety symptoms later in life.
“We are constantly shaping expectations, whether we are conscious of it or not,” said Aaron Heller, senior author of the study and associate professor of psychology, in a university release. “Whenever our expectations turn out to be wrong, it becomes a learning signal and is used to form better expectations in the future.”
In the past, psychology researchers have used simulated scenarios within controlled laboratory settings to study how predictions and expectations influence an individual’s mood and outlook. . But this latest study takes it a step further by examining high and low human expectations using a very real topic for participating undergraduates: grades.
Students learn more when expectations are met
More specifically, the study authors analyzed a group’s expectations regarding test performance while attending a chemistry class at the University of Miami.
Students agreed to share grades from four exams taken during one semester. After taking each test, the students sent Professor Heller their expected grade (on a scale of 0 to 100). In a previous small-scale research project investigating how people learn from such violated expectations, many reported an “optimistic learning bias”, that is, they learned more from positive outcomes than from negative surprises. I have found that it tends to show a tendency to learn a lot.
Similar results were obtained in this study. In general, most students exhibited an optimistic learning bias. They seemed to learn more when they performed better than expected than when they performed poorly. But another group of students remained 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. However, More pessimistic students were more likely to predict that they would score lower on subsequent exams, even if their final grades were slightly higher than expected,” explains Professor Heller. “This made their expectations more inaccurate overall, predicting whether students would develop symptoms of anxiety later in life, depending on how they learned. ”
Overall, this study provides compelling evidence that students’ positive and negative emotions are influenced not only by their actual exam performance, but also by their grades. Be expected to get.
“Enabling people to have more accurate expectations is an important treatment option for things like anxiety and depression,” Heller adds.
Moving forward, the research team hopes to expand their research and focus on better understanding why UM students are leaving STEM majors.
“We want to use these kinds of psychological variables to explore why some students leave STEM majors and then develop strategies to help them stay in these STEM programs,” Heller says. Professor concludes.
Findings will appear in the journal scientific progress.