Making a mistake can put your brain on ‘pause’ | Science News

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Making a mistake can put your brain on ‘pause’

Study shows how one error can lead to another

5:00pm, March 14, 2017
multiple choice mistake

DOMINO EFFECT  When people have to make many decisions very quickly, making one mistake can decrease accuracy on the next choice, too.

Mistakes can be learning opportunities, but the brain needs time for lessons to sink in.

When facing a fast and furious stream of decisions, even the momentary distraction of noting an error can decrease accuracy on the next choice, researchers report in the March 15 Journal of Neuroscience.

“We have a brain region that monitors and says ‘you messed up’ so that we can correct our behavior,” says psychologist George Buzzell, now at the University of Maryland in College Park. But sometimes, that monitoring system can backfire, distracting us from the task at hand and causing us to make another error.  

“There does seem to be a little bit of time for people, after mistakes, where you're sort of offline,” says Jason Moser, a psychologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, who wasn’t part of the study.


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