If there’s anything that stings more than wasting good money on a subpar outing, it’s doing so repeatedly—but still, the depths of TripAdvisor teem with accounts of mistakes that were made not once, but twice.
“Came back for lunch even though I didn’t enjoy my last meal here,” writes one unfortunate diner whose salad at a restaurant in Bunbury, Australia, came drenched in dressing.
Another guy found the Sistine Chapel a little meh. “Sure I could glance at the magnificence of the final judgment, but not for long as inevitably someone bumped me,” he harrumphed about his initial visit, adding that he later returned (why?) when friends were in town.
“Never again!” concluded a food-poisoned reviewer about a restaurant in Newport, Oregon—who clearly would’ve done well to follow her own advice the first time around.
To err is human, surely. But why do so many people make the same errors over and over again? Several recent studies reveal how our brains don’t learn from our past mistakes to the extent we might hope. In fact, thinking about past flubs might only doom us to repeat them.
For one thing, we seem to learn little from our past choices, good or bad. In a series of experiments published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Kelly Haws, an associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, asked some participants to recall times that they were successfully able to control their temptation to impulse-buy, and others to recall times they weren’t. Within each group, some subjects were asked to remember two instances and others 10, the idea being that it’s more difficult to remember many events than just a couple. She then asked them how much credit-card debt they’d be willing to incur in order to buy a coveted item.