The effect of different contents of intertrial feedback on the development of learned helplessness and the perception of control
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The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the effect that two variables, the content of intertrial feedback and uncontrollable negative outcomes, would have on subjects perceptions of control and ttieir subsequent learned helplessness. Until this study, the content of intertrial feedback had never been examined in terms of how it affected subjects' perceptions of control in an experiment. This study was based on Seligman's (1975) Learned Helplessness Model of Depression, whereby learned helplessness results from a lack of control over aversive or negative events in one's environment. In order to create a situation in which subjects perceived that they had no control, they were exposed to problem solving tasks which they could not solve. It was hypothesized that subjects who experienced low content percentages (being told that they failed most steps of the problem) would experience learned helplessness, while subjects who experienced high content percentages (being told that they succeeded on most steps of the problem) would not experience helplessness. Secondly, it was hypothesized that subjects who were told that they failed a problem (an uncontrollable negative outcome) would experience helplessness, whereas subjects who were told that they succeeded on a problem would not experience helplessness. The results of the investigation revealed that the content of intertrial feedback did not have a significant impact on creating learned helplessness in subjects. In addition, it was found that neither contingent nor noncontingent intertribal feedback produced learned helplessness in subjects. The only variable found to influence learned helplessness was whether the subject was told that he/she had failed on the problem. When subjects were told that they succeeded on the problem, a facilitation effect was observed.