Article

Learned Helplessness

J. Bruce Overmier and Mikael Molet

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0112
Learned Helplessness

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Learned helplessness arises from experiencing uncontrollable and unpredictable events—usually traumatic ones—and is reflected in a reduced ability to cope with future life challenges; these challenges could be behavioral, psychological/cognitive, or health. Science Direct finds the phrase “learned helplessness” used more than 14,000 times in articles with a minimum of 200 instances every year applied in a wide variety of contexts from animal laboratory to mental health clinics, classrooms, management offices, unemployment, and even voting habits in different countries. This speaks to the popularity of the phenomenon since Seligman and Overmier coined the term in 1967. “Learned helplessness” has been used as a label for both empirical phenomena and for a learned cognitive construct that theoretically accounts for the coping failures. These two are distinct uses. The demonstrations that experiencing uncontrollable, unpredictable traumatic events leads to future failures to cope with environmental challenges are of considerable importance empirically and theoretically, and they inform both psychological treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychological science more broadly.

Article.  12240 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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