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There is substantial empirical literature to support the theory of learned helplessness in animals. Learned helplessness is a phenomenon that occurs in humans as well.

Master Psychology


There is substantial empirical literature to support the theory of learned helplessness in animals. Learned helplessness is a phenomenon that occurs in humans as well. In this assignment, you evaluate the role of learned helplessness in explaining psychological disorders and analyse the relationship between theories of learning, goal setting and motivation.


This week calls upon you to apply metacognitive strategies to learner profiles and to then evaluate those strategies for individuals of different ages with intellectual and learning disabilities. Before this can be achieved, there must be an understanding of variables that affect those with intellectual and learning disabilities. The content of this week will focus on cultural implications, life span stages and interpersonal communication.

Requirements for the Assignment

  • considering the theory which you have read in this article, write why


you agree                   with Article 1 / 300 words

NOT agree                  with Article 2 / 300 words

you agree                   with Article 3 / 300 words

NOT agree                  with Article 2 / 300 words

with described below

  • be sure to support any claims and/or assumptions you make using the academic literature you researched.
  • in the end of this Assignment, you must add minimum 2 question for each article and to give a chance a writer of this Article to reply.
  • Critical research and analyse required (direction forensic and criminal psychology)
  • Assignment 1, 200 words

Article 1  LY

Learned helplessness (LH) has been linked to conditions such as depression (Smallheer, Vollman & Dietrich, 2018) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Bargai, Ben-Shakhar & Shalev, 2007). This connection has assisted in the understanding of complex behaviours linked with these mental illnesses, given that LH is a laboratory observed behaviour and can be easier to define and dissect (Bushwald, Coyne & Cole, 1978). Depue and Monroe (1978) challenge the idea that depression and LH are always linked by categorising the various types of depression and argue that LH is more likely to be correlated with depression that is the result of an external variable. For example, Bargai, Ben-Shakhar and Shalev (2007) linked depression and LH (as well as PTSD) in particular reference to women who had suffered from domestic abuse.

Interestingly studies that have researched LH and depression in relation to physical illness or pain have had mixed results. Skevington (1983) did not find a correlation between LH and depression in back pain sufferers whereas Smallheer, Vollman and Dietrich (2018) did find a relationship between depression and LH among patients who had suffered an acute myocardial infarction. This discrepancy may be due to the seriousness or degree of pain from the physical condition, but it does show that differences exist. Skevington (1983) also suggested that issues such as self-blame and the perception of other people’s control were essential factors in understanding helplessness. 

McCormick, Taber and Kruedelbach (1989) linked LH with PTSD and precisely pinpointed the perception of negative events as a significant contributing factor. Abramson et al. (1978, as cited in McCormick, Taber & Kruedelbach, 1989) formulated a LH theory which suggests that people who blame negative events on internal, global and stable factors are more likely to develop the condition. This means that people will blame themselves (internal), believe that the problem is all-encompassing (global) and will always be there (stable) therefore the situation is perceived as inescapable and individual believes that their actions are pointless. 

Sideridis and Kaplan (2011) discussed achievement goal theory, which has a similar premise to Dweck`s growth mindset theory (Dweck, 2009) by differentiating between performance and learning as the focus of a task. Performance motivated learning was developed further by separating performance-approach people, who focus on the thought of success and looking good, and performance-avoidance people, who want to avoid failure to prevent them from looking stupid. Performance-focused individuals got the most motivation from success and failure had the most detrimental impact on performance-avoidance people. Mastery people were keen to put in the effort from the outset but less enthused by success. This suggested that as well as the overall goal of a task, a person’s self-belief and ego could also affect the development of LH. 

A common theme from the findings mentioned is the perception of setbacks; if the learner views these as personal failures or something that is outside their locus of control, LH is more likely to occur. As such, findings on the cognition of LH seem to correlate with Dweck’s growth mindset theory demonstrating the importance of self-esteem and resilience in the learning process. 

Article 2 NZ  

Seligman and colleagues introduced learned helplessness (LH) during classical conditioning experiments where dogs exposed to shock during training appeared to exhibit hopelessness and passivity on subsequent shock attempts (Overmier & Seligman, 1967), displaying LH as learned behaviour resulting from lack of control over aversive stimuli. LH has been demonstrated in other species e.g. rats (Seligman & Beagley, 1975) and humans (Hiroto & Seligman, 1975) and has been linked to psychological disorders (Seligman, 1974). Miller and Seligman’s (1975) study showed, after exposing a sample of depressed and non-depressed participants to aversive stimuli (escapable and inescapable noises), that the group exposed to the latter exhibited anxiety and depression while participants (with and without depression) similarly exerted lower effort avoiding the noise.

Recent studies have also found a relationship between LH and psychological disorders. Raufelder, Regner and Wood (2018) found a relationship between students’ anxiety and LH, suggesting the motivating role of teachers’ support. The latter shows motivation as mediator, suggesting that motivating students can positively affect emotions of helplessness, possibly reducing anxiety. Dickson and Moberly (2013) who explored goal setting’s role in depressed individuals found that a potential explanation to their lack of motivation may emerge from their behaviours towards goal attainment and goals’ lack of specificity. The authors suggested that acknowledging the latter could contribute to depression intervention strategies, indicating goal setting as an additional mediating factor in the relationship between psychological disorders and LH to the one from Raufelder’s et al study.

Nowicka-Sauer et al (2017) who explored the relationship between LH and people’s views on illness, depression and anxiety among participants with systemic lupus erythematosus also found that LH was related to depression and anxiety, suggesting that participants tended to attribute their depression to their condition. Abramson, Seligman and Teasdale (1978) who suggested that the quality of depression depends on the generality, stability and type of LH (universal or personal), affecting whether people attribute their depression to external or internal factors respectively, noted that attributing helplessness to internal factors (personal helplessness) indicates lower self efficacy and higher expectations. Self efficacy, introduced in Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory and later developed to social cognitive theory refers to one’s belief of their capability to achieve a goal, a concept key in learning which has been linked to both motivation (Saif, 2014) and goal setting (Schunk, 1990).

The complex relationship between LH and psychological disorders and self efficacy, motivation and goal setting’s mediating potential can be explained through an example. A student who has experienced repeated failures in tests is likely to develop a sense of hopelessness in their ability to perform, exhibiting further performance anxiety, leading to a LH state. Motivating the student through teachers’ support as shown in Raufelder’s et al (2018) study and setting realistic goals as suggested by Abramson et al (1978) could increase their sense of self efficacy and gradually minimise feelings of helplessness, increasing their performance.  

While studies have shown support towards the relationship between LH and psychological disorders, causality cannot be supported as psychological disorders are complicated and affected by many factors. Lack of motivation and goal dysregulation, often seen among people with mental disorders e.g. bipolar disorder (Miklowitz & Johnson, 2009) and depression (Dickson & Moberly, 2013), indicate that further research on motivation, goal setting and theories of learning as mediating factors could inform intervention practices

Article 3 . EB


Learned helplessness (LH) is a cognitive process established when feelings of control (self-efficacy) are limited and therefore motivation to achieve goals is reduced. Expectancy value theory is valuable in understanding LH, especially when linked to depression or major illness.

Taylor and colleagues (2014) found that individuals who were able to control aversive stimulus had significantly higher perceived control than those who could not, these same participants performed better in tests and were less likely to give up. Therefore, LH is developed when individuals feel they are unable to exercise control. In both animal and human studies, Pryce et al. (2011) established that lack of control as a result of uncontrollable aversive stimuli enforces motivational, cognitive processes. As humans are motivated by expectation (Tolman, 1967), those who expected to have little control had less motivation to complete tasks. However, these laboratory studies do not consider the impact of environmental factors.


LH and depression are often empirically linked through rat or mice studies where uncontrollable stress has led to LH and depressive symptoms both biochemically and behaviourally (Vollmayr & Grass, 2013). Pryce et al. (2011) found that LH becomes generalised helplessness depending on the severity and length of time of the uncontrollable stress or stimulus. This generalised helplessness is developed through expectation of the stress and stimulus and the belief that this will change over time. Therefore, LH and depressive symptoms are based on expectation for change and resulting self-efficacy.

When applying these theories in context, LH and corresponding depressive symptoms is seen to be particularly prevalent following major illnesses due to changes in lifestyle and stressors which can change self-efficacy dramatically (Smallheer, Vollman & Dietrich, 2018). A study of patients with myocardial infarction by Smallheer et al. found that the most significant result was the positive correlation between self-reported LH and depressive symptoms. Other factors were also considered, for example, patients from the community hospital or who were unemployed had higher depressive symptoms, therefore depressive symptoms are not only linked to LH. Though these factors could contribute to motivation and LH.  


In contrast, Nowika-Sauer et al. (2017) found no significant associations between LH and other factors such as age, gender or employment status, though the study was extremely gender biased (55/59 participants were women) However, Nowika-Sauer et al. found that LH was positively correlated with both expectation (r=0.609) and depression (r=0.588). Further contradiction by Varga and Arnett (2013) found that attributional style of participants with Multiple sclerosis (MS) did not relate to depressive symptoms. However, perceived stress and therefore helplessness did increase depressive symptoms of those with MS. These studies link LH with depressive symptoms. LH is increased due to expectations for the future and therefore self-efficacy about the likelihood to get better or achieve, which leads to feelings of helplessness and depressive symptoms. 

Article 4 O K

The Influence of Learning Theories, Goal Setting and Motivation on Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness (LH) is a phenomenon noticed incidentally by Seligman and Maier (1975) during their study on the two-process learning theory with dogs (Shields, 1997). LH is recognized in both animals and humans as motivational, cognitive, emotional Deficits (Maier & Seligman, 1976), when subjected continuously to an unpleasant stimulus that cannot escape and therefore conditioned to apprehend pain and suffering without looking for a way to escape anymore (Abraham et al., 1978). As Pryce and his colleagues (2011) stated that learned helplessness might be a learned aversive uncontrollability (LAU) and some of the psychological disorders such as anxiety, phobias, shyness, loneliness and depression (Peterson et al., 1993) and Post-traumatic stress disorder (Bargai et al., 2007) might have stemmed from LH.

In an uncontrollable event that can be the cause of LH, motivation to respond decreases, also even if the response is successful in producing a solution, the organism has difficulty to comprehend the successful outcome (Pryce & Seifritz, 2011), and moreover depression and anxiety begins with the collapse of the emotional balance (Maier & Watkins, 2005).

Learning theories suggested that belief of self-efficacy is the main source of motivation (Schunk et al., 2008), its relation to outcome expectancy, focusing on the specifics of a task, context, and goals (Zimmerman, 2000) might help create self-control skills to overcome difficulties in any task (Kennett & Keefer, 2007) especially LH by using the skills of learned resourcefulness (Rosenbaum & Ben-Ari, 1985).

The study of Dweck and Repucci (1973) have shown that the tendency to feel powerless to control the outcomes of events causing loss of motivation and worsening the performance might be the base of LH. Since 1935 when Mace conducted a study on goal-setting (Carson et al., 1994), hundreds of studies concluded that (Cook, & Artino, 2016) setting goals, and creating steps for the realization of the goal, build in-depth learning (Locke and Latham, 2019) and feed motivation and prevent LH.

Locke and Latham (1990) founders of goal-setting theory, have analyzed almost 400 studies on goal setting and task performance. People who are provided with specific, challenging goals perform better with the acceptation of the goals, receiving feedback on their performance (Latham, 2003). Focusing on mastering the content as in Mastery Goal, while creates deeper interest and learning (Locke & Latham, 1990), as in the example of growth-mindset (Dweck, 2013); focusing on getting better than others as in Performance‐Approach Goal creates better grades (Chiaburu & Tekleab, 2005) as in the example of fixed-mindset (Ames, 1992); and focusing on preventing the failure as in Performance‐Avoidance Goal creates avoidance of unsatisfactory outcomes (Harackiewicz et al., 2001), which underline all major theories of motivation such as Maslow’s (1958) and Herzberg’s (2009) motivation theories; Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory, or Skinner’s (1978) operant-based behaviourism, Vroom’s (1964) formula “Motivational force = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence” (Liubakka, 2017) on motivation and choice-making.

As Locke (1969) argues, humans with their capacity to reason, have an advanced form of consciousness, therefore conceptualizing goals and creating achievement plans according to their purpose might be a necessary motivation for life, considering that goals are the “immediate regulators of behaviour” (Latham, Ganegoda, & Locke, 2011) and specifically aimed goals create existential awareness, purpose, and meaning, preventing depression and therefore LH.


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