Learned helplessness, test anxiety, and acknowledgment of contingencies

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Abstract

72 undergraduates designated as high or low test anxious (Test Anxiety Questionnaire) received either controllable of uncontrollable noise in a typical helplessness induction. Half of them subsequently received an acknowledgment of contingencies in the induction task, and the other half did not. An anagram task was then administered. Test anxiety theory successfully predicted group differences in anagram performance: Only high-test-anxious Ss were debilitated by the helplessness induction. The effects of providing acknowledgment of contingencies proved ambiguous, but this may have been due to the wording of the acknowledgment and the susceptibility of high-test-anxious Ss to social dimensions of the task situation. Because of differences in terminology, learned helplessness theory has failed to take into account a large body of literature that has similarly employed experimenter-induced failure, and there are numerous competing explanations for impairments following a helplessness induction. Test anxiety theory suggests that the deficits underlying impaired performance are likely to be attentional in nature. (32 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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