If Thanksgiving weekend is a time for gratitude, let's make the weekend before the holiday a time for whining. Actually, two studies out this week explore the upside of negative thinking. Sometimes, believing that everything's the worst can ultimately be for the best, the research suggests.
Fun fact 1: Complaining can help inspire people to change a bad situation. “In order to actually change the system, you’ve got to know what’s wrong with it,” says India Johnson, a graduate student at Ohio State University who helped lead a study set to appear in the journal Psychological Science.
Study participants read about a student at the Ohio university who wasn't happy with his experience with the school's freshman orientation. Some of the stories detailed the student's successful attempt to improve the orientation process; others read about the student's failure to do so. Then the volunteers were given an external review of the university from the Department of Education -- they could choose between reading a positive or negative report.
Interestingly, the students who'd read about the successful changes made to the freshman orientation were more likely to choose the negative report. Johnson explains, “In order for people to feel like they can actually affect the world and actually do something, they have to view the world as changeable. If you want people to be able to make that leap, you have to first get them to that point. Then they’ll be willing to seek out the negative information."
Fun fact 2: The best two words to motivate an expert may be, "You stink!" Newbies thrive on positive feedback, but when you're dealing with a pro, it may be best to give it to him straight, according to a new study appearing in the Journal of Consumer Research.
In one study, researchers Stacey Finkelstein and Ayelet Fishbach, both of the University of Chicago, examined reactions of beginning and advanced French students. Those who were just starting the language were more likely to improve if their instructor gave them gentle feedback, but the old-timers thrived on harsh criticism. Like the Ohio State study, the research suggests that negative words can bring about positive change.
What's bugging you today? Get out your complaints in the comments so you'll be ready to give thanks on Thursday.
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