Question: What Is Learned Helplessness?
Answer: Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.
While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings. When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.
The impact of learned helplessness has been demonstrated in a number of different animal species, but its effects can also be seen in people. Consider one often-used example: A child who performs poorly on math tests…
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