Muselmann was a derogatory term used
among inmates of World War II Nazi
concentration camps to refer to those suffering
from a combination of starvation and
exhaustion and who were resigned to their
impending death. The Muselmann inmates
exhibited severe emaciation and physical
weakness, an apathetic listlessness regarding
their own fate, and unresponsiveness to their
deCharms (1968) humans strive
to be the primary locus of causation
for, or the origin of, their own
Langer et al. (1975) – Hospital patients given more
personal control needed fewer pain relievers
17 elderely people, forced old age home:
4 weeks later = 8 dead
10 weeks later = 16 dead
I want to do these tests
in my own order. I am
sure that would make
me feel less anxious…
Stotland and Blumenthal (1964)
Lack of control leads to learned helplessness
Dogs conditioned to receive a shock did not move to relieve
themselves from it even though they were free to.
A child who performs poorly on
math tests and assignments will
quickly begin to feel that nothing
he does will have any effect on his
math performance. When later
faced with any type of math-
related task, he may experience a
sense of helplessness.
To study the effects of enhanced personal
responsibility and choice in a group of nursing
• Does increased control have
general beneficial effects?
• How would physical, mental
alertness, activity, sociability
and satisfaction be affected?
• Would the sense of
responsibility be generalised to
other aspects of their lives?
• Study carried out on two
floors of a top Conneticut
• All residents had similar:
health, socioeconomic status
and length of stay in home.
• 1 floor = Responsibility
Induced Group (RIG). This was
the experimental condition.
• 2nd Floor = comparison group.
This was the control
Responsibility Induced Group (RIG)
Comparison Group (CG)
They had influence over what
They were given options of what
They should give their opinions about
All complaints would be handled by
They could select their own plant and
care for it
They would be given a plant which
someone else would care for
They could choose which night was
They would be told which night was
Each group was briefed differently about
their stay in the nursing home:
1 week before the briefing Questionnaires 1 and
2 were administered and 3 weeks after the
briefing the same questionnaires were
Questionnaire 1 Questionnaire 2
Carried out by research assistant Carried out by nurses
Unaware of the true nature of the study Unaware of the true nature of the study
Asked participants about their level of
control in their lives and their
happiness and activeness
Nurses rated participants happiness,
alertness, dependency, sociability,
activity levels, types of activity.
Researcher also rated participants
They also noted whether residents went to the movie night or took part in
Questionnaire 1 (given 1 week before and 3 weeks after the briefing)
• Happiness and Activeness increased in the RIG although they didn’t
perceive themselves as having greater control .
• RIG were seen as being more alert
Questionnaire 2 – What the nurses thought…
• 93 % of the RIG group had improved and were more active (moving,
talking etc) than passive (reading).
• Movie attendance higher in the RIG
• Jelly bean guessing competition – 10 participants from the RIG, 1 from
Personal responsibility = increased well being
But what about the sample?
71% of CG became more debilitated over the 3 weeks
The improvements in the conditions of the RIG group were
quite small – what if you made bigger changes?
What made them go to the movies? Happiness or control?
Real world application – conditions in a care home?
Method – field experiment
Reliability – refers to whether something is consistent.
Consistency of answers on a questionnaire – test-retest
Validity – refers to whether something is legitimate or true.
Internal validity concerns the extent to which the researcher has
tested what they intended to test.
Ecological validity concerns the extent to which the research findings
can be generalised beyond the research setting.
Experimenter bias Extraneous variables
Sampling – representative?
Ethics – Informed consent? Deception? Lack of right to withdraw?
Privacy? Protect from harm? Confidentiality?
Rodin and Langer (1977)
Returned 18 months later, average mortality 25%
RIG group = 15%
CG group = 30% !!!!
Benefit when institutionalized aged given control over their
Found no difference between choice and no choice groups in
terms of physical well being.
Wurm et al. (2007)
Cognitive schemas surrounding sense of control and the
ageing process important in the physical health of elderly.
Suls and Mullen (1981)
SRRS (think Rahe et al) controllable life changes had less
negative impact on health.
Cohen et al. (1993)
Ps given cold virus. Those whose life was unpredictable and
stressful more likely to develop cold.