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Everything you need to know about the Hypercorrection Effect

Everything you need to know about the Hypercorrection Effect

5 min read
  • The science of learning

Have you ever experienced that “Aha!” moment when you realise a fact you were so certain about was actually wrong? It’s a fascinating phenomenon called the Hypercorrection Effect – and it can profoundly impact the way your students learn.

All of us share a crucial responsibility: to encourage students not to shy away from mistakes, but to embrace them as opportunities for growth and improvement. And it turns out these very mistakes may actually create stronger traces in your students’ memory. Let’s cover…

  • What exactly is the Hypercorrection Effect?
  • The causes of the Hypercorrection Effect
  • Key studies on the Hypercorrection Effect
  • How to use the Hypercorrection Effect in the classroom

What is the Hypercorrection Effect?

The Hypercorrection Effect suggests that when we are both wrong and confident about something, then get corrected through feedback, we are more likely to remember the right information.

This phenomenon is especially of interest for educators because it combines areas such as metacognition, learning from mistakes and feedback all together.

What causes the Hypercorrection Effect?

The dominant explanation suggests that the Hypercorrection Effect occurs due to learning surprise, which refers to the moment when students discover that their prediction was incorrect. When students encounter a learning surprise, they’re more likely to remember the correct information because it contradicts their initial prediction.

There are three psychological explanations for how surprise can lead to the Hypercorrection Effect…

1. Overconfidence

When someone experiences surprise, it can challenge their existing beliefs and assumptions. Surprise often arises when new information contradicts what we thought we knew.

This can get us to reassess our understanding and realise that our confidence may have been misplaced. By confronting unexpected information, students can question their initial certainty.

2. Confirming prior beliefs

A common type of thinking bias in the classroom is the Confirmation Bias. This refers to the idea that students often pay more attention to ideas they previously hold and wish to confirm.

Surprise can interrupt this by introducing unexpected or unfamiliar information. When students encounter surprising information, it disrupts their usual mental shortcuts and biases, which can lead them to seek out alternative sources of information beyond what is readily available in their memory.

3. Increasing metacognitive awareness

When faced with unexpected or surprising information, people become aware of their own limited knowledge in a particular area. This realisation can trigger a greater metacognitive awareness of students’ own cognitive limitations and promote a desire to learn and fill those gaps.

Help your staff understand and apply the latest and most important Cognitive Science research.

What does the research say on the Hypercorrection Effect?

In a review article, researchers listed numerous studies which have demonstrated the positive impact of the Hypercorrection Effect on students’ learning outcomes. Here’s what three of them suggest…

Study 1: The importance of correcting high-confidence errors

Researchers found that students with a higher level of prior knowledge and understanding of the material not only showed greater confidence in their original answers, but were also more likely to correct their inaccurate responses.

In one experiment, participants answered general knowledge questions, rated their confidence on a scale from 1 to 7, and then were shown the correct answers. The researchers discovered that participants were more likely to remember the correct answers for questions they had previously answered incorrectly with high confidence as opposed to low confidence. This demonstrates the powerful effect of correcting students’ errors in the material they have learned.

Study 2: Evidence from neuropsychology

Neuroimaging techniques have also allowed researchers to directly observe brain activity in response to the Hypercorrection Effect.

In one experiment, researchers examined the Hypercorrection effect using an fMRI. During the experiment, participants completed a questionnaire task and provided confidence levels for each answer. Later, they entered the scanner and were presented with the questions again, along with their initial answers, confidence rating and the correct answers. When comparing brain activations in response to feedback on high- and low-confidence errors, researchers discovered neural activity in the medial frontal area, which is responsible for attention and surprise.

Study 3: The Hypercorrection Effect serves as a “recursive reminder”

Research suggests that when students make learning errors and experience the Hypercorrection Effect, it creates an episodic memory, which is the memory of events. This type of memory reinforces the correction, making it more likely to be remembered.

When their high-confidence errors are corrected, students are prompted to recall the context in which they made the error. This not only brings attention to the error itself but also to the surrounding context that highlighted the mistake. This recursive process of reminding strengthens the correction, increasing the likelihood of remembering it in the future.

How can you use the Hypercorrection Effect in your classroom?

By implementing the Hypercorrection Effect in your classroom, you can not only foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter but also cultivate a positive learning culture that values and embraces mistakes. Here are two ways you could use this:

  1. Provide immediate feedback – The Hypercorrection Effect is most prominent when students receive corrective feedback immediately after an error. This allows them to quickly correct their misconceptions and reinforce the correct information in their memory, leading to a stronger long-term retention of the material.
  2. Encourage students to learn from their mistakes – Fostering a supportive and non-threatening learning environment is crucial for leveraging the Hypercorrection Effect. Normalising errors can encourage students to embrace their mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement. This recognition further motivates students to want to embrace their mistakes and learn from them.

These are just some of the ways you can support your students’ growth. This is why we made learning from mistakes one of the key pillars of our students Mastery Mindset student workshops, where we explore areas just like the hypercorrection effect.

Final thoughts

Given that errors are inevitable in learning, the Hypercorrection Effect is one powerful, simple and effective way you can correct errors in your students’ knowledge base without diminishing their learning spirit.

So, let’s embrace surprise and error in the classroom – they hold the potential to enhance your students’ educational experience.


About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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