Antecedents of learned helplessness deficits : the impact of motivation on cognitive processing
Very little attention has been directed toward examining the importance of cognitive versus motivational factors in the production of learned helplessness deficits. This thesis examines task-related motivation as a possible boundary condition of cognitive processing deficits following the induction of learned helplessness. It was hypothesized that individuals exposed to a learned helplessness (vs. control) training task would display significant cognitive and performance deficits when motivation levels were relatively low. When motivation levels were increased, however, individuals were expected to display higher levels of performance on a test task. Seventy-seven undergraduate psychology students were randomly assigned to either a solvable (control) or unsolvable (helplessness) discrimination task. Next, all participants completed a performance test which consisted of ten five-letter anagrams categorized as difficult. In this phase, motivation to continue (i.e., high or low) was manipulated by giving half of the participants in each group the option of receiving a clue for any given anagram. Additionally, participants responded to self-report measures of helplessness during and following completion of the test task. As expected, participants in the helplessness condition indicated that the tasks they encountered in the training phase were significantly harder and less pleasant than control participants and reported lower expectations regarding their ability to solve subsequent problems. Further, participants in the helplessness (vs. control) condition reported significantly more trouble concentrating during the test task and perceived their performance as significantly poorer. Surprisingly, however, no significant differences emerged for any of the performance measures in the test phase, either across levels of helplessness (i.e., helpless vs. control) or motivation (i.e. high vs. low). The results carry implications for future research and clinical practice.
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Jensen, Bernard J.
Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences
Irvin, Jennifer Elaine, "Antecedents of learned helplessness deficits : the impact of motivation on cognitive processing" (1997). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 2693.