Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Psychology, Clinical.




The purpose of this study was to provide a test for the attributional learned helplessness hypothesis (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978) which contains methodological improvements over existing research. This study tested for the predicted motivational deficit resulting from an attribution of personal helplessness. Female introductory psychology students worked on two different but similar fine motor tasks. Subsequently, subjects in two of three groups were told they could improve on one task but not the other. In addition, subjects in one of these groups were given feedback about their task performance: half were told they did well and half were told they did poorly. Later, when asked to practice the tasks under a modified procedure which they were told might or might not allow them to improve on both tasks, subjects in the two "helpless" groups did not prefer to practice the controllable task first or more times than the uncontrollable task compared with control subjects who had received only level of performance feedback after the initial task trial. Also, when asked which task they would prefer to practice and to rate their motivation to practice both tasks, "helpless" subjects showed no general tendency to prefer the controllable task or to feel more motivated to practice this task compared with control subjects. These results were found for both the good and poor performance groups. Given that subjects' interview responses indicated that the majority believed the manipulations they had received, these results did not support the learned helplessness hypothesis. The discussion suggests that motivational deficits may not have been found due to the possible high achievement motivation of the subjects. Consequently, the author suggests that the helplessness hypothesis may only make predictions about the behavior of certain types of persons and that this idea merits future study. The discussion further suggests, however, that these conclusions are tentative due to methodological difficulties which may have prevented confirmatory results from showing up. Suggestions for improving these difficulties are made and preliminarily tested in a follow-up study reported in the appendix.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1984 .R357. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 46-02, Section: B, page: 0657. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1984.