Generality of learned helplessness in man


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Abstract

Notes that learned helplessness-the interference with instrumental responding following inescapable aversive events-has been found in animals and man. The present study tested for the generality of the debilitation produced by uncontrollable events across tasks and motivational systems. 4 experiments with a total of 96 college students were simultaneously conducted: (a) pretreatment with inescapable, escapable, or control aversive tone followed by shuttlebox escape testing; (b) pretreatment with insoluble, soluble, or control discrimination problems followed by anagram solution testing; (c) pretreatments with inescapable, escapable, or control aversive tone followed by anagram solution testing; and (d) pretreatments with insoluble, soluble, or control discrimination problems followed by shuttlebox escape testing. Learned helplessness was found with all 4 experiments: Both insolubility and inescapability produced failure to escape and failure to solve anagrams. It is suggested that inescapability and insolubility both engendered expectancies that responding is independent of reinforcement. The generality of this process suggests that learned helplessness may be an induced “trait.” (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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