LEARNED HELPLESSNESS DEFINED• Learned helplessness – is the belief that “we can’t change the course of negative events—that failure is inevitable and insurmountable.”• Learned helplessness is about responses to failure NOT success• Learned helplessness is a control NOT a competence problem.
ACADEMIC LEARNED HELPLESSNESS• Many accomplished students shied away from challenge and fell apart in the face of setbacks.• Many less skilled students seized challenges with relish and were energized by setbacks.• Many skills students questioned or condemned their intelligence when they failed.• Many less skilled students never questioned their ability or even felt they failed.
HELPLESS VERSUS MASTERY PATTERNS• “Learned helplessness” (LH) patterns – initially the belief that failure was beyond their control and nothing could be done.• Updated to include denigration of intelligence, plunging expectations, negative emotions, low persistence and deteriorating performance.• “Mastery-oriented” (MO) patterns – was the hardy belief that success are replicable and mistakes rectifiable. To them, failure is surmountable so they remained focused on mastery in spite of their present difficulties.
DIENER & DWECK RESEARCH 5th & 6th graders were identified as mastery or helpless and then solved a series of math problems First 8 problems could be solved, but the next 4 problems were beyond their skills Researchers assessed problem-solving strategies used and thoughts and feelings expressed while the kids worked on the problems with a “talk aloud” strategy.
FREQUENCY OF HELPLESS BEHAVIOR Results across many studies show that • mastery patterns -- 40% • helpless patterns -- 40% • neutral patterns -- 10-15%
HELPLESS RESULTS Both groups were equally successful and positive on the success problems. Over one-third of helpless students denigrated their abilities and blamed their intelligence for their failure. LH students believed they had more failure than success. Two-thirds expressed negative affect during failure from boredom to anxiety.
HELPLESS RESULTS Their focus went to “saving face” rather than solving the problem. off-task thoughts (e.g., role in play) changed rules feel successful Performance plummeted because of use of poor problem-solving strategies Other research that allowed students to go back to success problems found serious deterioration in performance following failure.
MASTERY RESULTS Mastery students didn’t focus on the reasons for failure. They didn’t seem to believe they were failing. MO students gave themselves cognitive and motivational instructions on how to improve their performance. All used self-monitoring and self- instruction.
MASTERY RESULTS They remained confident and optimistic. They relished the challenge of overcoming failure. 80% maintained or improved the quality of their problem-solving strategies. 25% improved and taught themselves new strategies Failure was not a “personal indictment” but a “challenge.”
CLASSROOM CONFIRMATION STUDY Licht & Dweck (1984) asked students to read a booklet and take a mastery test. Form A had a confusing passage promoting failure and Form B didn’t. Both mastery and helpless students performed well on the “success booklet.” 72% of helpless and 68% of mastery students got all 7 questions correct. 72% of mastery but only 35% of helpless were able to master the “failure booklet.”
HELPLESSNESS IMPLICATIONS Eventually we all must confront failure situations. Do students choose to accept difficult challenges or avoid them by selecting easy tasks that guarantee success? “Challenge seekers” will normally be highly successful in anything the do, whereas “challenge avoiders” will often not perform well when confronting failure and adversity.
ROLE OF GOALS IN HELPLESSNESS Elliott & Dweck (1988) found that helpless and mastery students have different goals. “Performance goals” are about winning positive judgments about your competence and avoiding negative ones. Performance goal setters want to look smart and avoid looking dumb.
ROLE OF GOALS IN HELPLESSNESS “Learning goals” are focused on increasing competence. They promote learning new skills, mastering new tasks and understanding new material. Learning goal setters want to get smarter. The focus is on process rather than product—learning rather than achieving.
WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT? In the real world, learning and performance goals are often in conflict. Do they choose tasks that make them look smart or ones that help them learn as much as possible? Overemphasis on performance goals can hurt learning in the quest to look smart or talented.
GOALS CREATE MOTIVATION PATTERNS Elliott & Dweck (1988) gave 5th graders either a performance or a learning goal. Both groups got a series of successes on the same task followed by several difficult problems. Many students in the performance goal task showed the helpless pattern.
IMPACT OF ABILITY Most students in the learning goal condition demonstrated mastery patterns. Students with performance goals who were convinced they had high ability were more likely to demonstrate mastery patterns. Ability made no difference for students with learning goals.
IMPACT OF REAL WORLD GOALS Farrell & Dweck (1985) gave junior high students new science material. After a week of learning, students were tested on new kinds of problems. On the novel problems, learning goal students • scored significantly higher. • produced 50% more work • tried to apply principles to solve the problems
How do we help studentsor athletes who arelearned helpless toovercome this problem?
ATTRIBUTION RETRAINING Group 1 received only successes Group 2 received mostly successes, but they were taught to attribute failure to low effort or other internal-stable- controllable factors. Results showed no improvement for Group 1 Group 2 showed no impairment following failure and most actually improved.
What are the limitationsof “attribution retraining”in sport?
ORIGINS VERSUS PAWNS Origins – a person who feels that he is in control of his fate. He feels that the cause for his behavior is within himself. Pawns – persons who feel pushed around. They are the puppet and someone else is pulling the strings. They have an external locus of control.
De CHARMS ST LOUIS SCHOOL STUDY 3 year study in 4th through 6th grades of East St Louis elementary schools Week-long workshop to train teachers and have them design activities to teach principles to their kids Teachers implemented one activity per week throughout the school year Kids were pre and post tested each year.
De CHARMS’ RESULTS Kids academic progress was closer to their suburban peers each year of the study. Absenteeism and discipline referrals declined steadily Enjoyment of school and attitude of kids and their parents rose steadily
SELIGMAN’S EXPLANATORY STYLE Permanence – Helpless people believe the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent. They believe bad events will persist and will always affect their lives. People who resist helplessness believe the causes of bad events are temporary. People who believe good events have permanent causes are more optimistic than people who believe they have temporary causes.
SELIGMAN’S EXPLANATORY STYLE Pervasiveness – Helpless people who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in one part of the life but march stalwartly on in the others. Optimists believe that bad events have specific causes while good events will enhance everything they do. The pessimist believes that bad events have universal causes and that good events are caused by specific factors.
SELIGMAN’S EXPLANATORY STYLE Hope – Hope is the art of finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune. Temporary causes limit helplessness in time, and specific causes limit helplessness to the original situation. Permanent causes produce helplessness far into the future, and universal causes spread helplessness thru all of our lives and activities
SELIGMAN’S EXPLANATORY STYLE Personalization – People who blame themselves when they fail have low self-esteem as a consequence. They think they are worthless, talentless and unlovable. People who blame external events when they fail believe do not lose self- esteem when bad events strike. On the whole, they like themselves better than people who blame themselves do.
WEST POINT STUDY 1200 plebes are admitted each year for Beast Barracks in July 6 quit the first day and by the first day of classes 100 of our best students have quit. Pessimists are much more like to quit than optimists and their grades are worse than their ACT scores predict. Optimists often overachieve compared to their ACT scores.
DEPRESSION STUDY In September students are tested for Explanatory Style and depression Following the midterm exam, they were tested for depression again. Results confirmed . . . • 30% who experienced personal failure were depressed • 30% of the pessimists were depressed • 70% of pessimists who experienced personal failure were depressed
METROPOLITAN LIFE STUDY: THE PROBLEM Selling insurance requires dealing with frequent rejection and failure. Thus, many agents quit each year dramatically increasing training costs while reducing productivity. The insurance industry wants to select agents who are more resilient and handle failure constructively.
METROPOLITAN LIFE STUDY: THE PROBLEM Every year 60,000 candidates apply for jobs as new insurance agents and only 5,000 are hired. Even with extensive training, half quit the first year. By the end of Year 4, 80% have quit. Because it costs $30,000 to hire and train one agent, high turnover rates are costing companies $75 million a year.
METROPOLITAN LIFE STUDY: THE PROBLEM Agents find it difficult to experience the rejection of hearing people tell them “no” repeatedly. It’s easy to get discouraged as the “no’s” mount, prompting them to get more frustrated and pessimistic.
METROPOLITAN LIFE ADVANTAGE OPTIMISTS 200 agents took the Explanatory Styles Inventory and sales results compared for both groups. Optimists sold 37% more insurance than pessimists. For a sample of 104 new agents, pessimists were twice as likely to quit as optimists. In fact, 59 of 104 quit.
METROPOLITAN LIFE ADVANTAGE OPTIMISTS The Agent Selection Questionnaire (ASQ) is the industry standard for selecting insurance agents. Agents with scores in the top half of the ASQ sold 20% more insurance than those in the bottom half. Agents in the top quarter sold 50% more insurance than those from the bottom quarter.
METROPOLITAN LIFE ADVANTAGE OPTIMISTS In an interesting study testing of the power of optimism, 100 agents were hired who were optimists but failed the Insurance Industry’s exam the Career Profile. This group of special agents outsold pessimists who passed the CP by 21% the first year and 57% the second year. They also sold as much as optimists who passed the CP and had similar work histories.