The Science of Praise: Forbes Covers New Management Research by Lauren Eskreis-Winkler
Some bosses manage their employees through negative reinforcement, while others prefer positive reinforcement. But which managerial style is more effective? New research by Lauren Eskreis- Winkler reveals that encouraging management yields far better results than those that focus on failure.
Lauren Eskreis- Winkler and her team at the University of Chicago designed an experiment to test whether a positive or negative management style would produce better outcomes. The research—forthcoming in the journal of Psychological Science and profiled by Forbes—overwhelmingly points to positive reinforcement as the superior strategy. “Our society celebrates failure as a teachable moment,” state Eskreis-Winkler and her team. “Yet we find that failure does the opposite: it undermines learning. Failure feedback undermines learning motivation because it is ego-threatening. It causes participants to tune out and stop processing information.”
To arrive at this conclusion Eskreis-Winkler and her team provided success-oriented feedback to one set of participants, and failure-oriented feedback to another. They found that those in the former category were able to recall information and perform the activity with better accuracy. “Our key result is that people find failure feedback ego-threatening, which leads them to tune out, and miss the information it offers. Tuning out from a pursuit in the moment of failure could be the first step in a chain reaction that distances and discourages people from the goal they are pursuing.”
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