Immunization Against Learned Helplessness: Stimulus-Response Versus Congruency Between Expectation And Outcome

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


An effort was made to replicate and expand upon an experiment reported by Jones, Nation and Massad (1977). The resulting study incorporated seven experimental cells, each comprised of six males and four females. All subjects were undergraduate students enrolled in Introductory Psychology. There were two control groups: one which was given neither the preinduction nor the helplessness induction prior to the test phase (No treatment), and one which received only soluble problems prior to the test phase (Soluble). There were four types of preinduction: subjects were allowed to solve four of the four preinduction problems (100%) or two of the four (50%), or none of the four (0%). The fourth type was the No treatment mentioned above. Furthermore, among those exposed to 50% success, some were told that their performance had been above average (50% Above), some were told their performance was below average (50% Below) and some were given no comparative information at all (50%). Following this all subjects, except the controls, received a helplessness inducing treatment and then all subjects were tested on a series of 20 patterned anagrams.Because of large variability in the data none of the predicted differences emerged, however even the pattern of results failed to replicate the Jones et al. (1977) experiment. The pattern of the male data, on the other hand did approximate the predicted results though not significantly so.In an effort to explore the data, the original seven group classification was ignored and some correlational investigation was done using items from a post experimental questionnaire and anagram performance data. This approach revealed that responses to certain items on the questionnaire correlated significantly with anagram performance.The nature of this relationship was such that subjects demonstrated more helplessness if they attributed their performance in the helplessness phase to causes specific to the situation rather than more general causes. There was also more indication of helplessness among subjects who saw their performance as more reflective of the task than of themselves. And finally, there was more helplessness among subjects who attributed their performance to changeable factors rather than stable ones. All of this taken together seems to suggest that the helplessness observed was not generalized helplessness but rather specific to the task and recognized as changeable.The discussion centers on possible explanations for the failure to replicate Jones et al. (1977), on weaknesses in the present design and on recommendations for future studies in this area.


Psychology, Social

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