Hiroto and Seligman - Learned helplessness in humans - GD

Hiroto and Seligman (1975) "Generality of learned helplessness in man" (sic)

Having discovered learned helplessness in , Seligman wanted to investigate this in humans. He wanted to know if LH not only impairs performance in situations similar to that where failure was experienced, but whether learned helplessness would also become . The study used a complex mix puzzle pairs. The order of solvable and unsolvable puzzles was shuffled between trials. What follows is a key trial reported in the study.

They used undergraduates (51 men, 45 women) who responded to an advertisement offering them $2 to take part in a study on ''.

The participants were divided into three groups and presented with a series of loud tones and a . After a while, the tones stopped.

  • Group 1 (IV1) were told that there was a way of stopping the tones with the keypad, but a light indicated that they had to do so (the tones always stopped automatically after a 5 seconds);
  • Group 2 (IV2) were also told they could stop the noise, and were led to believe that had they ;this was a deception.
  • Group 3 (IV3) acted as a control and recieved .

In the second part of the experiment the participants were given a set of to solve. In fact there were to the anagrams: the DV was the length of time they stuck at the task ().


  • Group 1 ;
  • Group 2 ;
  • Group 3

Conclusion: learned helplessness is – the feeling of failure in one task will tend to result in people giving up in another. This implies that children who experience feelings of failure in one subject may transfer this to other subjects.


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