learned helplessness


learned helplessness

In psychology, a mental state in which a laboratory subject forced to bear aversive stimuli becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent applications, even if they are “escapable,” presumably through having learned that situational control is generally out of one's hands. Experiments, first on dogs and later on humans, led some researchers, including Martin E.P. Seligman (b. 1942) in Helplessness (1975), to believe that chronic failure, depression, and similar conditions are forms of learned helplessness. Critics have argued that different conclusions can be drawn from such tests and that broad generalizations are unwarranted.

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