Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learned Helplessness

I found the learned helplessness phenomenon very interesting. Learned helplessness is basically when an animal or human makes no effort to help themselves due to a lack of control over situations in the past; they  basically give-up. It was first found in an experiment with dogs (Seligman and Maier, 1976) but it applies to humans as well. Learned helplessness is a characteristic of many depressed patients and it is also salient in education. Here's an example of learned helplessness in the classroom. 

The book says that people most vulnerable to learned helplessness are people who suffer a series of unfortunate events such as losing a job, becoming ill, or getting divorced. Research also suggests that learned helplessness is less likely to occur for individuals who have successfully overcome misfortunes in their past. If you're curious how "in-control" or "helpless" you think you are, you can take a free, quick, and easy test here: mindtools: are you in control?


  1. this was interesting, i took the quiz and i guess i suffer from the learned helplessness phenomenon. its interesting because i've always been one to believe that things happen for a reason

    1. I thought it was really interesting how the teacher was able to induce learned helplessness in the students within a few minutes. I remember the book said people who suffer from learned helplessness are prone to depression also. The side with the unsolvable words seemed to feel depressed and inadequate over this one small situation they couldn't control.