Do You Learn More From Failure or Success?

Do you agree with these scientific statements?

1. We make conscious decisions 95%% of the time?
2. Emotions drive our behavior, and emotions are the seat (core)
of our subconscious mind?
3. We learn more from our failures than our successes?

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Number 1: (false) we are aware of making decisions only 5% of the time.
Number 2: (true) our behaviors and decisions are 95% on autopilot.
Number 3: (false) brain cells learn from doing something right, and not
from our mistakes.

So What?

Professor Earl K Miller at MIT, in an article July 30, 2009 in the journal Neuron:
Our brain cells have a file cabinet for our decisions with one side for Right actions, and a different feedback loop for Wrong ones.

After a failure, there is no change in the cells. Get this. Failure produces no improvement in human behavior. When we produce a successful behavior there is
neuroplasticity (physical change) in the cells. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability
to change (adaptation) in response to your new experiences.

Key Point: Success leads to additional successes because brain processing and
behaviors improve. You are cued to perform better the next time.

Two Brain Structures For Learning

Giving a reward (pat on the back, big smile, or a checkmark or gold star) after success registers in your Prefrontal Cortex (learning, memory, thinking), and
your Basal Ganglia (motor controls, cognition and emotions). Both are wired
to work together.

After a reward for a correct response, neurons in PFC and BG are stronger,
and supply more information because of improved electrical impulses fired.
If you were incorrect in the prior trial, you are weaker and more likely to fail again.

Double So What

We can affect adult learning by rewarding and tracking career behavior.
Homo sapiens require reinforcement to improve. Yes, it applies to teaching
children from first grade to graduate school.

How can you wire yourself for self-improvement? Condition (program) your mind
to expect rewards for correct results. There has to be a payoff or there is no improvement.

Your Prefrontal Cortex and Basal Ganglia are involved in obtaining internal goals.
They are the two key players in learning and long-term memory for kids and adults.

Trial And Error

Your hippocampal neurons are involved in Associative Learning: example: matching names with faces. There is a physiological measure linking (together)
trial-and-error which strengthen Right answers, and modify Wrong responses.

Trial outcomes improve the learning process. Long term memories are laid down
in your hippocampus. The function of your hippocampus is to memorialize new facts and events, and produce new Associations about unrelated ideas, words and
concepts. It leads to Declaratory Memory.

Google: Wendy Suzuki, NYU in March 26 Neuron journal. N.B. The more Trial
Outcomes (practice, rehearsal) the more you stimulate the neural networks for future successes.

Associative Memory

When you learn to LINK new, unknown ideas, words and concepts, with old consolidated long-term memory, your associations create learning. Example:
if you already know it requires 21 consecutive days of practice to create a
habit, relating that fact to the information, 21% of room air is oxygen is baby-easy.

You are hardwired for Associations. When you hear the term “up”, your brain responds with “down”, and when someone says Red for stop, you associate that with Green to go, without any conscious thought, right?

Your Memory

Human memory relies up to 90% on Associations and concepts we automatically
link together in our mind. Wait. Your brain thinks in pictures and mental movies,
and remembers in associations and links.

To improve your memory – ask yourself – what does this new word or concept remind me of that I already know? Link the new with the old, and you create
and strengthen connected synapses into neural networks.

If I need to recall the five nucleotides of the DNA/RNA of the genome:

a) adenine
b) guanine
c) cytosine
d) uracil
e) thymine

Associate adenine with Add+Nine; Gain+Nine; Sight+Sign; U+R+Sill; and

These five are linked in my mind with the Acronym A-G (ony) + C-U-T.
These associations are first learned, and then strengthened by ordinary daily language experience.

Why bother with the trouble of learning what you can write down on paper
or wordprocesser and copy?

The answer is health, but only if you desire to expand your Cognitive Reserve and protect your brain throughout your life. A second reason is longevity. Lifelong
learners improve their chances of living a long, healthy life. Each time you learn
your brain changes structurally and functionally for the better.


Would you have a competitive advantage in school and career by reading three-times faster than your peers, and remembering information twice as long?

Knowledge is the key ingredient to personal growth and career success in our economy. Promotions, salary increases, and bonuses are often knowledge based.

New skills and strategies improve your personal competency. For details to be
the Go-To person for knowledge in your organization, contact us for a Free

See ya,

copyright © 2009 H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's.
Business partner of Evelyn Wood, creator of speed reading, graduating
2 million, including the White House staffs of four U.S. Presidents: