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The use of verbal and concrete positive reinforcement to induce learning helplessness in adults.

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dc.contributor.author Lamb, David G.
dc.date.accessioned 2012-10-17T15:57:48Z
dc.date.available 2012-10-17T15:57:48Z
dc.date.created 1982 en_US
dc.date.issued 2012-10-17
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/2109
dc.description v, 42 leaves en_US
dc.description.abstract Since the initial study in 1967, a large amount of research has accumulated demonstrating that after exposure to inescapable aversive stimuli (e.g., shock, loud noise, etc.) subjects will show performance decrements on subsequent tasks. This "learned helplessness" effect has been induced in a wide variety of species, from goldfish to humans. Only recently, however, has any research been conducted using noncontingent positive reinforcement in a learned helplessness paradigm. While these studies have shown a helplessness effect, to date all of the subjects utilized have been children. Therefore the results cannot be generalized to an adult human population. The present study was undertaken in an effort to demonstrate that noncontingent positive reinforcement can induce a learned helplessness effect in adults, i.e.,college students. The additional variable of type of reinforcement was included to examine any possible differences between verbal and concrete reward. This was done in an attempt to equate, at least on an elementary level, the learned helplessness research with the educational research on failure. The subjects were 96 introductory psychology students who were randomly assigned to one of four groups; 100% noncontingent reinforcement, 50% random reinforcement, contingent reinforcement, and the control group, which was not exposed to the treatment phase. These four basic groups were broken down further into either verbal or concrete reinforcement. The treatment phase consisted of matching block designs with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children four color blocks. The performance phase involved a letter/number substitution task. Analysis of the data showed no significant differences between verbal and concrete reinforcement. Further statistical analysis produced a significant (£ < .05) difference between the four different treatment groups. The Newman-Kuels technique was employed to determine specific group differences, and showed that the 50% and 100% reinforcement groups were statistically equivalent, as were the contingent and control groups. The 50% and 100% groups did, however, display a significantly greater number of errors in the performance task than did the contingent and control groups. The primary conclusion to be drawn from the above data is that learned helplessness can indeed be induced in adults by· exposing them to noncontingent positive reward. It is also of interest that both concrete and verbal reinforcement are equally effective in producing this helplessness effect. Finally, the fact that the 50% and the 100% groups produced equal decrements in performance is curious in light of previous research which usually shows the 100% group as the most debilitating to subsequent learning tasks. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject Reinforcement (Psychology) en_US
dc.subject Conditioned response. en_US
dc.title The use of verbal and concrete positive reinforcement to induce learning helplessness in adults. en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.college the teachers college en_US
dc.advisor Stephen F. Davis en_US
dc.department psychology en_US

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