A two-process theory of learned helplessness

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Abstract

160 college students solved button-pushing problems under feedback conditions designed to differ systematically in the amount of information they conveyed and the amount of motivation they produced. During a pretest series of trials, 1 group received response-contingent feedback designed to enhance both information and motivation. A 2nd group was yoked to the contingent group and thus received low information and low motivation. A 3rd group experienced noncontingent success (low information, high motivation), and a 4th group received noncontingent failure feedback (low information, low motivation). A 2-process model that gives equal weight to information and motivational cues correctly predicted that the performance of the noncontingent success group on a transfer task would fall in between that of the contingent group and the failure/yoked groups. As a more stringent test of the model, 4 interventions were factorially combined with the pretreatments. The intervention treatments involved giving either no information, information about the contingencies, praise, or derogation. As predicted by the model, simply giving Ss information about the contingencies removed the debilitating effects of learned helplessness. (10 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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