New Study Shows Confusion May Help Us Learn

New Study Shows Confusion May Help Us Learn

A new study shows the frustration of confusion may be beneficial in helping us learn.

Whatever doesn’t kill us can only make us stronger—right? Well, nobody’s ever died of sheer confusion, which would seem to agree with the recent findings of the University of Notre Dame. The university research team has shown that confusion, although it can be uncomfortable or frustrating, can be beneficial to learning.

According to the study that will be published in Learning and Instruction, uncertainty and bewilderment can be beneficial when learning complex information; that is, if it is properly induced, effectively regulated, and eventually resolved.

The study

In a series of experiments, participants were subject to educational media discussions that featured a variety of digital characters discussing hypothetical scientific case studies. To build confusion among the study’s participants, the research presented to them was flawed. Based on the incomplete and sometimes contradictory data, the subjects were asked to decide which opinions had more scientific merit.

The subjects who experienced uncertainty or confusion during the experiment scored higher in a difficult post-test and were more savvy in identifying flaws in new case studies.


Researchers believe that the emotional impacts of confusion encourage learners to consider and process new information more carefully in order to resolve their confusion.

According to the researchers, it is important that the nature of the confusion be closely linked to the learning situations and that learners make an attempt to resolve their confusion. It’s also important that learners receive help from their learning environments when they struggle.

Also, any misleading information presented in a learning session should be corrected and addressed by the end.

Looking for ways to boost your mental performance and learning? Read these recent articles and blog posts from alive:

  • “Keep Your Memory
  • “Growing Grey Matter”
  • “Curious Students Achieve Academic Success”
  • “Does Pumping Iron Also Pump Up Memory?”

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