Have we underestimated the facilitative effects of failure?

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Two studies investigating learned helplessness (i.e., perceived independence between a response and its consequences, attributed to previous failures to control or avoid adversive events) were conducted--one with 267 3rd, 5th, and 7th graders and the other with 34 college students. Percentage of failure was manipulated in each study, and subsequent performance on a parallel task was used as a dependent variable. The anticipated effect of debilitating performance occurred only under the 100% failure condition. There was no significant difference between the 70 and 40% failure conditions in the 1st study or between the 88 and 22% failures in the 2nd study. These data suggest that the learned helplessness phenomenon may be greatly modified by failure levels of less than 100% and that we may be underestimating as well as underinvestigating the facilitative effects of more moderate levels of failure. (French summary) (15 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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