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Motivating Feedback Best When Matched to Skill Level

Motivating Feedback Best When Matched to Skill LevelA new study reviews the efficacy of positive and negative feedback and how the different styles work to motivate individuals of various skill levels.

Researchers learned that the skill level of the individual determines the best approach as novices are more motivated by positive feedback than experts, who prefer a stern assessment.

“In our work, we asked: When is positive or negative feedback more effective for motivating behavior and changing attitudes as a function of a person’s expertise level?” write authors Stacey Finkelstein, a doctoral candidate,¬†and¬†Ayelet Fishbach, Ph.D., both of the University of Chicago.

We all receive incessant feedback on our actions and habits. Often the feedback is directly associated with changing or reinforcing behavior.

For example, doctors advise patients on how to improve their health or praise them for healthy habits; the beauty industry provides feedback to consumers on what products and services they could use to improve their appearances; and fitness trainers give tips and praise to their clients.

Given this background, researchers examined how beginners or novices compare to experts in response to a variety of feedback approaches.

“In a series of five studies, we find that novices seek more positive feedback than experts and they respond more to this feedback as measured by their willingness to pay for future beauty services, donate to environmental organizations, and even in their evaluations of a media message,” the authors write.

They also found the opposite to be true: Experts sought and responded better to negative feedback. The findings apply to a variety of situations, a discovery that could guide health educators, marketers or teachers.

In one study, the authors looked at students who were enrolled in beginning and advanced French courses.

They discovered that novices were more likely to change their behaviors if their instructors provided positive feedback on their progress. Meanwhile, the advanced students were more motivated after receiving feedback showing they had made insufficient progress.

“These findings suggest that to promote motivation and change attitudes, marketers should differentially target novices and experts,” the authors said.

The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Feedback hand photo by shutterstock.

Motivating Feedback Best When Matched to Skill Level

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Motivating Feedback Best When Matched to Skill Level. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 16 Nov 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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