Could delayed feedback be better...?

New research questions the idea that you should always give feedback as soon as possible.

1 min read

The general belief/consensus/teaching has for a long while been that feedback ought to occur as soon as possible after an event in order to effect behaviour change.

Now a new piece of research in the Journal of Economic Behaviour & Organization appears to question that. Exploring behaviour around tax audits, it looked at people's reactions to immediate and delayed feedback.

Unsurprisingly, people receiving delayed feedback were more likely to see the timing of feedback and the behaviour of authorities as unfair. They were also more likely to perceive the probability of audit as high, and more likely to describe penalties as severe. Doesn't seem much good news there, then.

But: When the researchers also checked the impact of feedback on subsequent tax compliance, the people who had received the delayed feedback were more likely to be compliant.

The authors explain their findings by pointing to the fact that the people receiving delayed feedback tended to over-estimate the frequency of audits. The distinctiveness of the event (receiving feedback in a manner perceived to be unfair) seemed to influence their estimations of re-occurrence.

In which case...this would suggest that making feedback more memorable is important for achieving behaviour change...even if that involves making the feedback feel unfair...

© Nik Kinley, 2024

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