Magazine article Psychology Today

Don't Look Now

Magazine article Psychology Today

Don't Look Now

Article excerpt

THE HISTORY OF innovation is filled with stories of people spurred on by the prospect that someone else might beat them to a goal: Alexander Graham Bell's patent appllcetion for the telephone preceded Elisha Gray's by a matter of hours. In ordinary life, however, comparing our achievements to those of others can be discouraging. When learning to play a musical Instrument, hearing a true virtuoso may plantthe idea that our practice is futile, just as starting at a new gym can be an exercise in despair when you see well-toned neighbors race through their workouts.

Fresh evidence of the downside of comparison comes from a study by behavioral scientist Todd Rogers and public policy researcher Avi Feller, reported in Psychological Science. They examined more than 5,000 students who had completed a writing assignment for a Massive Open Online Course and who then evaluated peer papers of differing quality. About 68 percent of students who assessed average essays went on to finish and pass the course. …

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