We’ve all experienced the agonising wait for feedback, whether it’s for exam grades, news from a job interview, or results from a grant application. These verdicts can have a massive influence in our lives but they can often take weeks or even months to arrive. And that’s a big problem, according to Keri Kettle and Gerald Häubl from the University of Alberta.
They have found evidence that we do better at tasks the sooner we expect news about our performance. If we think we’ll be evaluated quickly, the threat of a negative appraisal looms ever larger. And this greater sense of danger motivates us to work harder.
Kettle and Haubl asked 271 students to give a four-minute presentation as part of a university course. Their performance would be judged by their peers and it would count towards their final grade. The students were told about the date of their presentation and when they would hear about the results, with waiting times ranging from a few hours to 17 days later.
The duo found that students who anticipated the quickest feedback achieved the higher grades. On average, those who knew they would hear back later on in the day scored within the top 40% of the group. Those who thought they would hear back 17 days later received scores that skirted the bottom 40%. It seems that even the anticipation of quicker feedback can boost performance.