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By Chen-Yu Kao, Dara M. Wald and Erik W. Johnston published on CPI website on Feb 17, 2014

To a large extent, our current public governance decision-making system is dominated by an unseen but influential negativity: the fear of failure.

Why Do Decision Makers Fear Failure?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revealed that, for most people, our brains wage a battle between the lure of reward/success and a fear of failure. This process influences individual willingness to take risks (Risk and reward Compete in Brain). First identified in the 1960’s, an irrational fear of failure has been classified a phobia “Atychiphobia,” which can occur when an individual is expected to perform an unfamiliar or difficult task with a high risk of failure.

Despite possible individual differences, due to human biological and cognitive factors, fear of failure is strongly influenced by “social norms” which stigmatize or tolerate failure.  These differences in social norms, in terms of stigma of failure or tolerance of failure, strongly determine to what extent people are fearful of failure or willing to take risks. Our current public governance system is dominated by a social norm that stigmatizes failure. Therefore, decision makers in this system generally fear failure. Continue reading Failure Capacity in Public Governance Systems

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