Scientists Confirm That In Order To Succeed, You Have To First Fail

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If you have ever tried a new sport or attempted learning a musical instrument, you are well aware that the hardest part is getting started. Once you figure out the technique, the skills return fairly easily, even if they are not used for long periods of time. Most experts attribute this to "muscle memory," which means the brain remembers the action and can recall it when needed. Now some researchers from John Hopkins University believe there is another factor that may be as important in recalling previously learned motor skills - the errors made while learning the task.

The study led by Reza Shadmehr, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, involved asking volunteers to play a simple video game: hitting a red target dot with a slightly smaller blue dot, similar to playing virtual darts. What the gamers did not know was that as soon as they mastered the game, the researchers reprogrammed it by moving the blue dot slightly off-course, thereby forcing them to restart the learning process. What the scientists observed was that though the volunteers did make mistakes every time the game was changed, they got successively faster at mastering it.

Shadmehr believes that this has to do with the fact that in addition to committing the task to muscle memory, the brain is also critiquing each wrong move and learning how to correct it. He likens it to having a coach that points out the mistakes and makes suggestions on how to improve.

What surprised the scientists, who published their findings in Science Express on August 14th, is that making mistakes not only trains the brain to perform better at a specific task, but also helps it learn faster from errors, even when the mistakes are made while learning a completely different task. The researchers believe that the brain keeps a general database of errors and draws on them whenever a new motor skill is being learned, to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. This helps makes successive learning processes much faster and probably explains why people who master one sport or musical instrument, are able to pick up others, with relative ease.

While for scientists, these new findings may be a way to help improve rehabilitation methods for people with strokes or spinal injuries, for the rest of us it means realizing that making mistakes is a good thing. So the next time you are practicing musical scales, working on your tennis serve, or learning any other motor skill, don’t get discouraged by the errors - because that's just what you need to become the next Rafa Nadal or cellist extraordinaire, Yo-Yo Ma!

Resources: hopkinsmedicine.org

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715 Comments
  • jazmine2008
    jazmine2008Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 2:47 pm
    oh fail ok that's been done. i have horrible grades. i have a lot of c's b's and one a and that is a hard class to fail. so yeah. 💖
    • tennisgirl798
      tennisgirl798Friday, April 30, 2021 at 11:11 am
      you don't have to fail....
      • fancygirl27
        fancygirl27Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 6:52 am
        it is super! and so cool LOL
        • fancygirl27
          fancygirl27Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 6:48 am
          it is super! and so cool LOL
          • ivhdyu
            ivhdyuWednesday, February 10, 2021 at 7:49 am
            cool
            • justletmeusethi
              justletmeusethiThursday, February 4, 2021 at 7:37 am
              I dont know how i feel about it besides i is very inspiaring
              • sossus
                sossusThursday, January 28, 2021 at 5:30 am
                i didnt really like it but it wasn nessiserily bad
                • aapatterson
                  aapattersonThursday, January 23, 2020 at 10:10 am
                  it was the best
                  • bobbyMonday, November 11, 2019 at 7:53 am
                    It was the best thing ever bruh you need to keep doing this stuff
                    • SophiaThursday, November 7, 2019 at 5:49 am
                      this was great!!!!!!!