Learning goes best when people fail 15 percent of the time, according to a new study.
Educators and educational scholars have long recognized that there is something of a "sweet spot" when it comes to learning. That is, we learn best when we aim to grasp something just outside the bounds of our existing knowledge. When a challenge is too simple, we don't learn anything new; likewise, we don't enhance our knowledge when a challenge is so difficult that we fail entirely or give up.
"These ideas that were out there in the education field — that there is this 'zone of proximal difficulty,' in which you ought to be maximizing your learning — we've put that on a mathematical footing," says lead author Robert Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology and cognitive science at the University of Arizona.