Behavior: Healthy Frustration

On the theory that frustration impedes learning, educators use teaching machines designed to prevent all errors and reward all successes. Last week Columbia University Psychologist Herbert Terrace asserted that the theory is wrong; his experiments with pigeons demonstrate that it is not frustration but a complete lack of it that blocks the process of learning.

The trouble with "errorless" machines is that they fail to prepare students for the real world. There, "you don't always get paid off for doing the right thing, and you have to cope when you make a mistake." Without the ability to cope—or, as psychologists call it,...

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