Martin Seligman Learned Helplessness Theory & Learned Helplessness Examples
What is Learned helplessness?
Learned helplessness is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual’s ability to produce voluntary movement becomes impaired by previous experience of being unable to control important aspects of the environment.
Learned helplessness is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when an animal or human has learned to act or behave helplessly in a particular situation, even if they have the ability to change it.
Learned helplessness is a psychological concept that describes people’s tendency to give up in the face of difficult challenges.
Martin Seligman Learned Helplessness Theory
The concept of learned helplessness was first introduced by psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven Fagerstrom in 1967 as part of his theory of “learned helplessness.” It is also known as “acquired passivity,” “learned dependency,” and “psychological inertia.”
In addition to animals, humans can experience learned helplessness after repeated failures at tasks they could normally complete. This may be due to their belief that they do not have control over outcomes, which leads them to stop trying.
This behavior can be learned through repeated failures, leading to depression or other mental health problems. It is a state in which people have been exposed to long-term adverse situations.
It has been defined as “a condition of inhibited power or even total powerlessness to control the circumstances of one’s life.”
People experiencing learned helplessness tend to believe they are at the mercy of outside forces. There is no way for them to change their current situation, making them passive observers rather than active participants in their own fate.
Seligman Learned Helplessness Dog Experiment
Learned helplessness is a psychological state that occurs when individuals believe they cannot control or change their current situation.
The learned helplessness experiment is conducted by psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven Foulkes in 1967 as part of their research into depression ( to determine the causes of depression in dogs)
In this psychological test, a dog was repeatedly given an electric shock that could not escape from or control.
At first, the dog frantically tried to get away from the situation. But after two weeks of being shocked every day with no way out, he stopped trying altogether and just laid down.
The second phase of this experiment took place six months later where it was found that nothing had changed; even though there were no more shocks administered to him at all times during his day-to-day routine (and he can go through one), he continued to act as if something bad would happen again.
The researchers found that after dogs were put through a series of electric shocks, they would eventually stop trying to escape even though there was no shock for some time afterward.
This feeling can lead to the person giving up and not trying anymore, which in turn leads to them being more likely to fail at future tasks.
Seligman Learned Helplessness Examples.
It is said that we are what we repeatedly do. We often find ourselves in situations where there is no control, but it doesn’t mean that our actions don’t affect outcomes. Rather than give up or just accept the situation, wouldn’t you want to change your circumstances?. Classic examples include;
- A person who has learned that they have no control over their life may also give up trying to change anything, even if it would be possible for them to do so.
- People with depression often feel helpless and powerless because they believe there are no solutions or escape from their situation.
Martin Seligman Learned Helplessness in Education
Learned helplessness is the idea that if a person has been exposed to an uncontrollable stressor over a long period of time, they will eventually stop trying to control it and instead behave as if it were inescapable.
When applied to education, learned helplessness may be seen when students are repeatedly given tasks that they cannot complete or do not know how to do without their teacher’s help.
In this situation, the student’s sense of self-efficacy decreases because they believe there is nothing they can do about their own learning outcomes.
Learned Helplessness & School Dropouts
The term learned helplessness in education could be used to describe the dropout phenomenon that occurs when students give up on their educations.
An example of Learned helplessness would be students who feel like there’s nothing they can do about their grades because it’s too late in the semester or because it doesn’t matter what grade they get on this test.
Because the student believes they have no control over their situation, which leads to apathy and loss of motivation.
This can happen when someone has been subjected to inescapable stress for an extended period of time. The person may become so overwhelmed that they give up trying to cope with the situation or make any changes, even though the stressful event is not happening at the moment.
In this case, the student may decide to drop out of school.
Learned helplessness in education can be used to try to address and prevent dropouts from happening.
How to overcome learned helplessness in the classroom
- Recognize that you are not alone.
- Find a mentor to help you through the process of overcoming learned helplessness in the classroom.
- Seek out support from your peers and colleagues who have overcome learner’s helplessness in the classroom.
- Keep trying new things until something works for you, even if it’s hard at first.
- Celebrate small successes along the way
Learned helplessness in relationships
While learned helplessness was initially applied to animals’ study, it has also been studied in humans. In fact, many psychologists have found that it is an important component of human relationships as well.
This shouldn’t be all too surprising; after all, we are social creatures, and part of our success depends on how others treat us.
While emotions like anger and sadness are common in all relationships, there is a special feeling that comes from helplessness.
“Helplessness” can be defined as not being able to control or influence the outcome of any situation. This can come about when you feel your efforts and emotions aren’t heard or valued by others.
You may also feel this way if you have encountered someone who doesn’t value your needs in return.
Learned helplessness in children
When children seek support, but no one comes to their assistance, they can believe that nothing they do can change their condition.
Repeated interactions that reinforce these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness will eventually lead to an adult feeling that there is nothing one can do to change their problems.
Some common symptoms of learned helplessness in children include:
- Lack of effort and hard work
- Frustration and stress
- Failure to ask for help
- Passivity and satisfaction
- Giving up easily
- Lack of motivations
- Procrastination habits
- Low self-esteem
Learned helplessness in adults
The theory suggests that once people are subjected to uncontrollable events, they lose their ability to control other aspects of their lives.
Following this line of thinking learned helplessness in adults could lead individuals into depression or suicidal behavior when they encounter difficult situations. An example is when a father feels hopeless for being unable to provide for his family.
How to deal with learned helplessness
- Be aware of learned helplessness: Recognize that learned helplessness is a mental state and not an actual condition.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of learned helplessness. Understand the cognitive biases that contribute to learned helplessness, such as self-serving bias and hindsight bias.
- Take responsibility for your own life and actions. Learn about new research on how to overcome learned helplessness.
- Practice skills like problem-solving, goal setting, and social support seeking to reduce feelings of learned helplessness. Seek out a therapist or counselor if you are feeling hopeless about your situation.