Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: October 03, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412956253 | Print ISBN: 9781412916707 | Online ISBN: 9781412956253| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
What happens when people encounter obstacles in solving problems and are unable to avoid negative outcomes (e.g., academic failure, interpersonal rejection)? Will they persevere in trying to control the course of events and invest more efforts in improving their performance or give up and withdraw from the frustrating situation? What are the consequences of this painful experience for a person's emotional state and psychological functioning? Dealing with these questions, hundreds of experimental studies, conducted during the 1970s and 1980s, have exposed people to inescapable failures in a wide variety of tasks and have found that participants apparently give up trying, passively succumb to the failure, and show performance deficits in a subsequent task. These responses, which reflect the emotional and behavioral interference produced by the inability to control undesirable life events, have been labeled “learned helplessness.” The first study of learned helplessness was conducted with dogs by Martin E. P. ...