Tag Archives: Ellen Peters

Confidence Enables Persistence Enables Performance

Brian J. Lucas

Brian J. Lucas

People consistently underestimated the number of creative ideas they could generate if they continued working on a task, particularly on subjectively difficult innovation challenges, found Northwestern’s Brian J. Lucas and Loran F. Nordgren.

Loran Nordgren

Loran Nordgren

People who were undaunted by difficult tasks were more able to persist in developing novel ideas, and their work produced both more ideas and higher quality of innovations than they predicted.
This research suggests the benefits of “grit”, described by University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth as perseverance and passion for goals, particularly long-term objectives.

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth

In Lucas and Nordgren’s research, more than 20 volunteers had 10 minutes to generate as many original ideas as possible for things to eat or drink at a U.S. Thanksgiving dinner.
Then, external judges evaluated responses for originality and suggestions rated “above average” were eligible to win a $50 lottery.

Volunteers took a break from idea generating, and estimated the number of ideas they expected to generate with another 10 minutes’ effort before they continued the idea development task.
External raters judged ideas developed in the second work phase as significantly more original than those in the initial session.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.14.56 PMThese results were replicated with professional comedy performers from SketchFest, the largest sketch comedy festival in the U.S.
Performers received a comedic scene set-up such as “Four people are laughing hysterically onstage. Two them high five, and everyone stops laughing immediately and someone says….”

Their task was to create as many endings as they could during four minutes and to
predict the number of endings they would develop with during an additional four minutes work time.

These professional comedians also significantly underestimated the number of ideas they would develop with on their second attempt, suggesting persistent undervaluation even among experts.
When a task seems challenging, “people decrease their expectations about how well they will perform,” argued Lucas and Norgren, even though “creative thought is a trial-and-error process that generally produces a series of failed associations before a creative solution emerges.”

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

These findings indicate that negative expectations can reduce persistence, leading to performance below potential.
They confirm Thomas Edison’s assertion that “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to success is always to try just one more time.”

This effect was also demonstrated in comparisons of people’s numeric competency including:

  • Objective numeracy, or ability to work with numbers: “If the chance of getting a disease is 10 percent, how many people would be expected to get the disease out of 1000?
  • Subjective numeracy, a self-evaluation of math abilities: “How good are you at working with percentages?”;
    How often do you find numerical information to be useful?
  • Symbolic-number mapping abilities, or predicting and understanding numeric relationships such as a carpenter estimating the amount of wood needed for a project.
Ellen J. Peters

Ellen J. Peters

More than 110 volunteers completed tasks including remembering numbers paired to different objects, then evaluating bets based on risk.
People lower in subjective numeracy and confidence had more negative emotional reactions to numbers and were less motivated and confident in numeric tasks, reported Ohio State’s Ellen Peters with Pär Bjälkebring of University of Gothenburg.

Pär Bjälkebring

Pär Bjälkebring

This negative reaction to quantitative tasks presents significant challenges for those who still need to complete tasks like preparing annual personal income tax forms and expense reimbursement reports.

These studies replicated findings that people are not the best judges of their own skills: In fact, one in five people who said they were not good at math actually scored in the top half of an objective math test.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Conversely, one-third of people who said they were good at math actually scored in the bottom half, validating the Dunning-Kruger effect when incompetent individuals overestimating performance despite feedback.

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Persistence in creative as well as tactical tasks can lead to more plentiful and higher quality results than abandoning difficult efforts.

-*How do you maintain persistence during challenging tasks?
-*How do you verify that your self-perceptions align with actual performance and other’s perceptions?

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Emotional Awareness Enables Focus, Risk-taking Even When “Stressed”

Jeremy Yip

Jeremy Yip

Greater emotional understanding enables people to quell the “incidental emotion” of anxiety while they focus on decisions, according to Wharton’s Jeremy Yip and Stéphane Côté of University of Toronto.

Stéphane Côté

Stéphane Côté

Incidental emotions that influence decision-making have been called “the affect heuristic” by University of Oregon’s Paul Slovic, Melissa Finucane of the East-West Center, Ohio State’s Ellen Peters, and Donald MacGregor, then of Decision Research.

Paul Slovic

Paul Slovic

People with greater emotional intelligence can separate unpleasant thoughts and feelings from decision making and are less likely to show the affect heuristic bias in risky decisions.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud considered this ability to separate unpleasant thoughts and feelings as a defense mechanism deployed unconsciously to reduce anxiety and preserve self-esteem.
He called this experience “isolation,” contrasted with “compartmentalization,” which he defined as separating unpleasant emotions from each other.

Roy Baumeister

Roy Baumeister

Florida State’s Roy F. Baumeister, with Karen Dale then of Case Western, and Baruch College’s Kristin L. Sommer, documented recent studies that demonstrate “isolation” as a defense mechanism or coping strategy to contain negative feelings, “emotional contagion,” and “spillover.”

John Mayer

John Mayer

Yip and Côté demonstrated the relationship among emotional intelligence, evoked anxiety and propensity to make riskier choices in their lab studies of more than 100 volunteers, who completed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test developed by Yale’s Peter Salovey and David R. Caruso with John D. Mayer of University of New Hampshire.

David R Caruso

David R Caruso

One group received an anxiety-provoking assignment:  One minute to prepare a videotaped speech shown to peers studying “academic and social standing” at the university.
The other group was given a less stressful assignment:  Prepare a grocery list.

Volunteers in both groups could choose their compensation for participating in the study: Receive $1, or take a one in 10 chance to receive $10.

Melissa Finucane

Melissa Finucane

For those given the stressful speech-writing task, people who scored higher on emotional intelligence chose the riskier option to receive $10 three times as often as those who scored lower on emotional intelligence.

In contrast, volunteers who completed the low-stress task made similar choices for compensation no matter the level of emotional intelligence.

Ellen Peters

Ellen Peters

However, people can learn emotional awareness skills to enable mental focus and contain unrelated incidental emotions, according to related studies by Yip and Côté.

They demonstrated this ability to contain anxiety when some volunteers in the speech-writing task were told they “might feel worried” because making a speech is an anxiety-producing task.
Other speech-creators received no further instructions.

Kristin Sommer

Kristin Sommer

Yip and Côté “primed” no emotion among some grocery list-creators by saying that they “may feel no emotion” or no instructions.
Participants were then primed to separate their emotions from their decision-making by being told that their emotions were irrelevant to their decisions.

 Volunteers read information about the benefits of receiving flu injections and consequences of no inoculation during flu season.
Then participants were given the option to register for nearby flu injection clinic.

The reminder that emotions were irrelevant to decisions changed previous results, by increasing the frequency that participants with lower emotional awareness chose the riskier option of not attending the flu injection clinic.

 The findings suggest that adults can reduce emotional bias in decision-making by explicitly identifying emotions and separating them from critical thinking processes

Questions that enable people to separate emotions, thoughts, and decisions include:

  • How do I feel right now?
  • What is causing me to feel that way?
  • And are my feelings relevant to the decision I need to make?

-*How do you avoid the affect heuristic when making decisions?

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