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Learning To Be Depressed Seligman, M.E.P., & Maier, S.F. (1967) Failure to escape traumatic shock. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74, 1-9.

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Presentation on theme: "Learning To Be Depressed Seligman, M.E.P., & Maier, S.F. (1967) Failure to escape traumatic shock. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74, 1-9."— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning To Be Depressed Seligman, M.E.P., & Maier, S.F. (1967) Failure to escape traumatic shock. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74, 1-9

2 Learned Experience We expect that our actions will produce a particular consequence. We expect that our actions will produce a particular consequence. Our expectations of these consequences cause us to behave in a specific way. Our expectations of these consequences cause us to behave in a specific way. We act based on the fact that we will bring about a certain result or consequence. We act based on the fact that we will bring about a certain result or consequence. Ex. If you are in an abusive relationship, you will take the action to remove yourself. You would expect to succeed in making the change. Ex. If you are in an abusive relationship, you will take the action to remove yourself. You would expect to succeed in making the change.

3 Learned Experience (cont’d) We believe that we have power and control over our actions and expectations. We believe that we have power and control over our actions and expectations. This is only possible because in the past we have exerted some sort of effort, or control, and have been successful. This is only possible because in the past we have exerted some sort of effort, or control, and have been successful. If there is a lack of this control in our lives, we believe ourselves to be helpless to the situation. If there is a lack of this control in our lives, we believe ourselves to be helpless to the situation. Ex. If you’re dependent on the relationship and feel powerless, you would stay in pain. Ex. If you’re dependent on the relationship and feel powerless, you would stay in pain.

4 Learned Experience (cont’d) Our perceptions of the power and control we have over our lives is imperative to psychological and physical health. Our perceptions of the power and control we have over our lives is imperative to psychological and physical health. If you had lost the power to make changes in your life, and were independent of your actions, you would feel hopeless. Eventually you’d give up on trying to exert control. You would become depressed. If you had lost the power to make changes in your life, and were independent of your actions, you would feel hopeless. Eventually you’d give up on trying to exert control. You would become depressed.

5 Learned Experience (cont’d) Martin Seligman, a behavioral psychologist, believes that our perception toward power and control are learned through our experiences. Martin Seligman, a behavioral psychologist, believes that our perception toward power and control are learned through our experiences. When a person fails at controlling life events, consistently, they may cease the attempt to exercise control. When a person fails at controlling life events, consistently, they may cease the attempt to exercise control. If this happens often enough the person will over generalize their lack of control, and cease the attempt, even when control may be possible. If this happens often enough the person will over generalize their lack of control, and cease the attempt, even when control may be possible.

6 Learned Experience (cont’d) This person becomes helpless and depressed. This person becomes helpless and depressed. Therefore, Seligman termed this particular cause of depression, learned helplessness. Therefore, Seligman termed this particular cause of depression, learned helplessness. Seligman and Maier’s research is an original demonstration supporting his theory. Seligman and Maier’s research is an original demonstration supporting his theory.

7 Theoretical Propositions Seligman had studied an earlier experiment that, when dogs were exposed to a shock that they could not escape from, they did not learn that when an escape was possible they had the power to take it. Seligman had studied an earlier experiment that, when dogs were exposed to a shock that they could not escape from, they did not learn that when an escape was possible they had the power to take it. This is also referred to as escape-avoidance behavior. This is also referred to as escape-avoidance behavior.

8 Theoretical Propositions (cont’d) Seligman theorized that the dogs previous experience of being shocked, in which their actions were ineffective, effected their future power of being able to escape from such situations. Essentially, they had learned to be helpless. Seligman theorized that the dogs previous experience of being shocked, in which their actions were ineffective, effected their future power of being able to escape from such situations. Essentially, they had learned to be helpless. To test this theory, Seligman and Maier studied the effect of controllable versus uncontrollable shock on future ability to learn to avoid shock. To test this theory, Seligman and Maier studied the effect of controllable versus uncontrollable shock on future ability to learn to avoid shock.

9 Method Medium sized dogs received electrical shocks (not meant to produce harm). Medium sized dogs received electrical shocks (not meant to produce harm). Subjects were 24 mongrel dogs, weighing between 25 and 29 pounds. They were divided into three groups, eight subjects in each group. Subjects were 24 mongrel dogs, weighing between 25 and 29 pounds. They were divided into three groups, eight subjects in each group. 1) escape group 2) no-escape group 3) no-harness control group

10 Method (cont’d) Escape and no-escape group dogs were placed into individual harnesses, in a shuttle box. Although they were restrained, they were able to slightly move. Escape and no-escape group dogs were placed into individual harnesses, in a shuttle box. Although they were restrained, they were able to slightly move. A panel was placed on either side of the dogs head to keep it facing forward. The dog was able to push the panel by moving its head. A panel was placed on either side of the dogs head to keep it facing forward. The dog was able to push the panel by moving its head. When an electrical shock was delivered to the dog, it could stop the shock by pushing its head on the panel (escape group). When an electrical shock was delivered to the dog, it could stop the shock by pushing its head on the panel (escape group).

11 Method (cont’d) Shocks were delivered to the subjects at the same time (the subjects were paired, one from the escape group and one from the no-escape group). The no-escape group had no control over the shock. Shocks were delivered to the subjects at the same time (the subjects were paired, one from the escape group and one from the no-escape group). The no-escape group had no control over the shock. The escape group was able to terminate the shock upon pressing its head on the panel. The escape group was able to terminate the shock upon pressing its head on the panel. Both groups received the same intensity of shock and for the same duration of time. Both groups received the same intensity of shock and for the same duration of time.

12 Method (cont’d) During this stage of the experiment the no- harness control group did not receive shocks. During this stage of the experiment the no- harness control group did not receive shocks. The escape and no-escape groups received 64 shocks at 90 second intervals. The escape and no-escape groups received 64 shocks at 90 second intervals. The escape group learned to terminate the shock by pressing the side panels. The escape group learned to terminate the shock by pressing the side panels. Twenty-four hours later all the subjects were tested again in a similar shuttle box. Twenty-four hours later all the subjects were tested again in a similar shuttle box. This time, lights were used to determine when the shocks would be delivered. This time, lights were used to determine when the shocks would be delivered.

13 Method (cont’d) After the lights went on, an electrical current would pass through the box in 10 seconds. After the lights went on, an electrical current would pass through the box in 10 seconds. There was an escape available for the subjects. They could simply jump over the box onto the other side to escape the shock. There was an escape available for the subjects. They could simply jump over the box onto the other side to escape the shock. If the subject jumped within 10 seconds it would escape the shock, if not the shock would continue for 60 seconds. If the subject jumped within 10 seconds it would escape the shock, if not the shock would continue for 60 seconds. Each subject was given 10 trials in the shuttle box to escape the shock. Each subject was given 10 trials in the shuttle box to escape the shock.

14 Method (cont’d) Seligman and Maier measured learning by two variables: Seligman and Maier measured learning by two variables: 1) how much time it took, on average, from the time the light came on, until the subject jumped over the box 2) percentage of subjects in each group that failed to learn they could escape the shocks

15 Method (cont’d) It should also be noted that the subject in the no-escape group had 10 additional trials in the shuttle box seven days after the initial experiment to notice any long lasting effects of the experiment. It should also be noted that the subject in the no-escape group had 10 additional trials in the shuttle box seven days after the initial experiment to notice any long lasting effects of the experiment.

16 Results When having been placed in the shuttle box for the first time: When having been placed in the shuttle box for the first time: - The escape group subjects panel pressing decreased over the 64 shocks. - The no-escape group subjects stopped pressing the panel after 30 trials.

17 Results (cont’d) Having waited 24 hours, and being placed in a shuttle box where all had an escape: Having waited 24 hours, and being placed in a shuttle box where all had an escape: - The escape group learned that they could easily avoid the shock, after having pressed their heads against the panel. It took 27 seconds on average to escape. - The no-escape group learned that they were unable to easily avoid the shock having had no prior way to escape. It took 50 seconds on average to escape.

18 Results (cont’d) In nine out of the ten trials in the ability to escape, the subjects failing to learn to escape the shock by far was the no-escape group. Approximately 80% of the subjects failed to learn to escape. Whereas in the escape group, all had learned to escape. In nine out of the ten trials in the ability to escape, the subjects failing to learn to escape the shock by far was the no-escape group. Approximately 80% of the subjects failed to learn to escape. Whereas in the escape group, all had learned to escape. The no-escape group had learned to become helpless even when they had the power to escape. Six of these subjects failed entirely. In the delayed test 5 of the 6 failed to escape. The no-escape group had learned to become helpless even when they had the power to escape. Six of these subjects failed entirely. In the delayed test 5 of the 6 failed to escape.

19 Discussion Seligman and Maier concluded that the escape group subjects learned in the harness phase that their behavior was related to the termination of he shock. Hence, they were motivated to escape the shock by jumping the barrier. Seligman and Maier concluded that the escape group subjects learned in the harness phase that their behavior was related to the termination of he shock. Hence, they were motivated to escape the shock by jumping the barrier. For the no-escape group, the termination of the shock had nothing to do with their behavior, they then had no incentive to escape. For the no-escape group, the termination of the shock had nothing to do with their behavior, they then had no incentive to escape.

20 Subsequent Research In later research Seligman found that depression in humans occurs much in the same fashion. Humans lean from their past experiences whether or not their actions will be beneficial or useless. In later research Seligman found that depression in humans occurs much in the same fashion. Humans lean from their past experiences whether or not their actions will be beneficial or useless. Learned helplessness in humans has much more serious consequences rather than depression. Learned helplessness in humans has much more serious consequences rather than depression.

21 Subsequent Research (cont’d) Ex. A health psychologist has stated that in order to be a “good patient”, one must give up all control. This may create learned helplessness in an individual, and hinder their recovery rather than help it. They may fail to exert control later on even when it is possible. Ex. A health psychologist has stated that in order to be a “good patient”, one must give up all control. This may create learned helplessness in an individual, and hinder their recovery rather than help it. They may fail to exert control later on even when it is possible.

22 Ethical Concerns A large part of this research experiment that must be taken into account are the ethical concerns. Is it ethical to endure shock on animals in order to learn more about human behavioral patterns? A large part of this research experiment that must be taken into account are the ethical concerns. Is it ethical to endure shock on animals in order to learn more about human behavioral patterns? What about mice or rats used in laboratories? Are those circumstances as unethical as the use of dogs? What do you think? What about mice or rats used in laboratories? Are those circumstances as unethical as the use of dogs? What do you think? The important question is whether or not we may benefit from research such as this. The important question is whether or not we may benefit from research such as this.

23 Conclusion This research began a theory that explains why some people become so helpless and depressed. This research began a theory that explains why some people become so helpless and depressed. He has refined his theory over the years and has established three conclusions occurring under particular conditions. He has refined his theory over the years and has established three conclusions occurring under particular conditions.

24 Conclusion (cont’d) Individuals are more likely to become depressed if they’ve learned to attribute their lack of control to causes: Individuals are more likely to become depressed if they’ve learned to attribute their lack of control to causes: 1) permanent rather than temporary 2) related to personal factors 3) affecting many areas of their life  These have contributed to therapists being better able to understand, and treat serious depression.

25 Further Questions Is it possible that learned helplessness is a main source of depression from this research? Is it possible that learned helplessness is a main source of depression from this research? Are we able to prevent learned helplessness from occurring if we can manipulate our environment? Are we able to prevent learned helplessness from occurring if we can manipulate our environment?

26 Follow-up Study Witkowski, Tomasz Performance Levels In Situations Of Helplessness Threat And Group Affiliation: Egoistic Mechanisms In Helpless Deficits Journal of Social Psychology (Apr. ’97), Vol. 137, Issue 2, 229

27 Aim Studies the egotism hypothesis for poor performance following insolvable problems. As well, contributing egotistic mechanisms to perform in a group and the helplessness threat condition was studied. Studies the egotism hypothesis for poor performance following insolvable problems. As well, contributing egotistic mechanisms to perform in a group and the helplessness threat condition was studied. NOTE: Results to this experiment are contrary to the learned helplessness theory. NOTE: Results to this experiment are contrary to the learned helplessness theory.

28 Aim (cont’d) Researchers have noticed that when participants undergo helplessness training, they performed better than the control group subjects, on the task being tested. Researchers have noticed that when participants undergo helplessness training, they performed better than the control group subjects, on the task being tested. In this research, subjects in the failure and group affiliation conditions performed better than the others. In this research, subjects in the failure and group affiliation conditions performed better than the others.

29 Method Participants were 40 students from secondary schools in Poland (16 boys and 24 girls). Participants were 40 students from secondary schools in Poland (16 boys and 24 girls). These children had an average age of 17.2 years. These children had an average age of 17.2 years. Blind-procedure Blind-procedure Two factors were manipulated: problem solving and group affiliation. Two factors were manipulated: problem solving and group affiliation.

30 Method (cont’d) The first task had math problems, they were either solvable or unsolvable (discrimination) The first task had math problems, they were either solvable or unsolvable (discrimination) Second tasks were done with and without group affiliation. Second tasks were done with and without group affiliation. Each variable had two levels. These levels were varied among subjects. Each variable had two levels. These levels were varied among subjects.

31 Method (cont’d) In the first phase the participants were randomly divided into groups. They were told to solve 4 math exercises each. Twenty received 4 solvable problems and the other 20 received four unsolvable problems. In the first phase the participants were randomly divided into groups. They were told to solve 4 math exercises each. Twenty received 4 solvable problems and the other 20 received four unsolvable problems. In the second phase participants were randomly divided in 4 equal groups. In 2 groups the group affiliation variable was introduced. Both groups had different instructions. In the second phase participants were randomly divided in 4 equal groups. In 2 groups the group affiliation variable was introduced. Both groups had different instructions.

32 Method (cont’d) The groups were told they were broken up in terms of their intelligence. They were told to solve exercises once again. The groups were told they were broken up in terms of their intelligence. They were told to solve exercises once again. In the groups without affiliation they were given the same procedure as the first phase (all participants solved the same exercises). In the groups without affiliation they were given the same procedure as the first phase (all participants solved the same exercises).

33 Method (cont’d) Following the tasks, all participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire. Participants were asked to evaluate their performance on the problems, and to indicate the extent to which success or failure on the unsolvable problems was not under the researchers control. Following the tasks, all participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire. Participants were asked to evaluate their performance on the problems, and to indicate the extent to which success or failure on the unsolvable problems was not under the researchers control. Participants were also asked how well they performed, with a range of responses on a Likert Scale. They were also questioned about their accreditation. Participants were also asked how well they performed, with a range of responses on a Likert Scale. They were also questioned about their accreditation.

34 Results Compared with success, failure in the first phase caused lower ratings of performance on the unsolvable problems. Compared with success, failure in the first phase caused lower ratings of performance on the unsolvable problems. The subjects who had failed in the first phase solved tasks much more slowly than those who were successful. The subjects who had failed in the first phase solved tasks much more slowly than those who were successful. The affiliated and unaffiliated subjects performed only a little faster than those without affiliation. The affiliated and unaffiliated subjects performed only a little faster than those without affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects who had succeeded in the first phase had a faster performance time than affiliated participants who also succeeded in phase one. Unaffiliated subjects who had succeeded in the first phase had a faster performance time than affiliated participants who also succeeded in phase one.

35 Questionnaire Results Subjects without affiliation selected abilities and effort as the primary cause of their results. The unaffiliated group did not select abilities and effort as the cause of their results. Subjects without affiliation selected abilities and effort as the primary cause of their results. The unaffiliated group did not select abilities and effort as the cause of their results. After the helplessness training (discrimination problems), subjects without affiliation stopped trying to solve the problem. Successful participants without affiliation had the motivation to maintain their effort. After the helplessness training (discrimination problems), subjects without affiliation stopped trying to solve the problem. Successful participants without affiliation had the motivation to maintain their effort. DOESN’T THIS SUPPORT THE LEARNED HELPLESSNESS THEORY?!!!!

36 Discussion Witkowski found that the study supports and confirms the egotism explanation. Witkowski found that the study supports and confirms the egotism explanation. After their experience with unsolvable problems only the subjects without an affiliation performed poorly. After their experience with unsolvable problems only the subjects without an affiliation performed poorly. Those affiliated attributed results to external variables, which in turn caused them to continue to solve the problems. Those affiliated attributed results to external variables, which in turn caused them to continue to solve the problems.


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