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Chapter 8 Psychopathology Learning To Be Depressed Seligman, M.E.P. & Maier, S.F. (1967)

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 8 Psychopathology Learning To Be Depressed Seligman, M.E.P. & Maier, S.F. (1967)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 8 Psychopathology Learning To Be Depressed Seligman, M.E.P. & Maier, S.F. (1967)

2 Introduction  Based on successful past experiences, we believe that we have some control over what happens to us.  If this perception of control is lacking, then all that is left is helplessness.

3 Introduction  If one day, all of a sudden, you could not make changes in your life, how would you feel?  Most people would be hopeless and give up trying to make changes. Most people would probably become depressed.

4 Martin Seligman  Martin Seligman is a well-known and influential behavioral psychologist.  He believes that our understandings of control are learned from our experiences.  He also believes that when certain efforts fail repeatedly, we stop trying to control it altogether.  If failures happen a number of times then we infer our lack of control to all situations, even when control is possible.

5 Martin Seligman Cont.  The feeling now is helpless and depressed.  Seligman coined the phrase learned helplessness for this cause of depression.  Seligman developed his theory, along with Steven Maier, “in a series of now classic experiments that used dogs as the subjects.”

6 Theoretical Propositions  Seligman learned from an earlier experiment that when dogs are exposed to punishing, but not harmful, shocks in which they cannot escape from, they failed in later tests to learn to escape from shocks in which they had control over.  Dogs were later placed in a shuttle box, a large box with 2 halves divided by a partition.  When the dogs felt a shock on one side, all they needed to do was jump over the partition to escape the shocks.

7 Theoretical Propositions Cont.  In Seligman’s experiment the dogs that could not escape from the previous shocks, did not escape when placed in the shuttle box.  Seligman theorized that something the animals had learned about the ability to control in unpleasant situations affected their later learning.  In other words, the dogs had learned to be helpless.

8 Method  In this experiment dogs received shocks that were painful, but not harmful, in order to test a psychological theory.  24 mongrel dogs were used, weighing between 25 to 29 pounds.  They were divided into 3 groups with 8 dogs in each. The groups were the escape group, no- escape group, and the no-harness control group.

9 Method Cont.  Dogs in the escape and no-escape groups were placed in individual harnesses, which were not completely restrained from movement.  A panel was placed on both sides of the dogs head to keep it facing forward. They could press the panel simply by moving their heads.

10 Methods Cont.  Dogs in the no-escape group were paired up with another dog from the escape group. This is a procedure called yoking.  Both groups received shocks at the same time but the escape group dogs were the only ones who had control over the shocks. To end the shock they had to press the panel on the sides of their head.  The dogs in the no-harness control group received no shocks at this point.

11 Method Cont.  The escape group learned quickly to press the panel and end the shocks.  24 hours later, all 3 groups were tested in a different shuttle box.  This one was equipped with lights on either side of the box.

12 Method Cont.  When the lights turned off on one side, a shock was sent about 10 seconds later. If the dog jumped the partition within 10 seconds, they didn’t feel the shock.  If the dog did not move, they felt the shock, which lasted for 60 seconds.  Each dog had 10 trials in the shuttle box.

13 Method Cont.  Learning was measured on 2 things:  1. Average time of when the light turned off to when the dog jumped the partition.  2. Percentage of dogs that failed to learn to escape from the shocks.

14 Results  Times for the dogs in the escape group to end the shock decreased over the 64 shocks they received.  The dogs in the no-escape group completely stopped pressing the panel after 30 trials.

15 Results Cont.  Average time in seconds to escape in shuttle box.  The difference between the no-escape group to the other two groups is statistically significant.

16 Results Cont.  Percent of failing to learn to escape shock in the shuttle box.  Difference between escape and no-escape groups is highly significant.

17 Discussion  Seligman and Maier decided that the only difference between the escape and the no-escape groups was the control over ending the shocks.  That is why the escape group performed so well on later tests. They had learned that their behavior was related to the ending of the shocks, so they had more motivation to jump over the partition.

18 Discussion Cont.  Since the no-escape group’s behavior had no effect on the ending of the shocks, they had no motive to escape the shock.  These dogs had learned to be helpless.  In a subsequent experiment by Seligman and Maier they found out that once dogs had learned their behavior was effective, experiences with failure did not stop their motivation to escape.

19 Subsequent Research  Seligman now wanted to relate the results to humans.  He believed that humans develop depression using the same processes seen in learned helplessness in animals.  Humans learn depression from past experiences where their actions were useless and in situations where they have no control.

20 Subsequent Research Cont.  In humans, learned helplessness that leads to depression can have serious consequences.  Research shows that the elderly who are forced to give up control over daily activities have poor health and greater chance of dying than those who still have control over their life.  Other studies have linked uncontrollable stressful events to serious diseases like cancer.

21 Subsequent Research Cont.  In order for hospital patients to get better, they show learned helplessness because they feel that they must give up control and do as the doctors tell them to.  When control is needed for continued recovery, the patient cannot give it.

22 Subsequent Research Cont.  A study by Finkelstein and Ramey (1977) showed learned helplessness in infants.  They placed rotating mobiles above the babies cribs.  One group had pressure sensitive pillows. When the babies moved their heads the mobile would rotate.  The second group had no control over rotating the mobile; it moved randomly.

23 Subsequent Research Cont.  After a 2-week period, the control-pillow group became skilled in moving their heads to make the mobile move.  The no-control group was later given the same pillows that the control group of infants had. They failed completely to learn to move the mobiles.  The infants actions in the first test were useless. So later testing they failed to try even though they had control over the situation.

24 Follow Up Study  A study by Hersh, Stone, and Ford in 1996, looked at the relationship between learning disabilities and learned helplessness.  Third graders with learning disabilities were compared to third graders without identified learning disabilities.  Both groups were compared on a reading level that was higher than their ability.

25 Follow Up Results  Both groups failed the reading task.  However the students with a learning disability had a more difficult time recovering from the stress of failure than the students without a disability.  Using Seligman’s theory, we can say that these students may encounter more failure, which can lead to them stop trying or they will learn to be helpless.

26 Conclusion  There have been standards that guarantee that laboratory animals be treated humanely.  Many people believe that these standards are inadequate. Others believe in the elimination of animal testing for research altogether.  Before making a decision, one has to ask, do the findings extend our knowledge, reduce human suffering, and improve quality of life fully to justify the methods used to carry out the study?

27 Conclusion Cont.  In Seligman and Maier’s study we can say yes.  They found the beginning of a theory for why people become helpless and depressed.  Seligman further developed theories and treatments for depression.  “Does this knowledge justify the methods used in the early research of learned helplessness? You can decide.”


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