THE INTELLIGENCE-CREATIVITY DISTINCTION AND LEARNED HELPLESSNESS IN GIFTED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN

CHARLES PETER TSARNAS, Fordham University

Abstract

When reinforcement is independent of responding, individuals tend to show a dramatic decrease in their motivation and ability to respond to subsequent stimuli because they have learned that responding does not produce predictable outcomes. This belief in the inefficacy of responding is known as learned helplessness an can be identified by the following elements: (a) prior exposure to noncontingency; (b) the development of the belief or expectancy that responding is not instrumental in influencing outcomes; and (c) cognitive. behavioral, and motivational deficits resulting from that belief.^ While subjects have shown predicted problem solving deficits as a result of exposure to the cognitive induction methods employed in helplessness research, there are those who successfully resist the influence of noncontingent reinforcement conditioning and evidence no problem solving deficits after exposure to the learned helplessness paradigm. The source of this immunization to the helplessness effect is a matter of controversy.^ Previous studies have attempted to immunize subjects using prior exposure to contingent reinforcement schedules with varying levels of success. The present study focused on the cognitive styles and personality traits associated with 4 levels of intelligence-creativity in a gifted population as possible "immunizers" against the effect of non-contingent reinforcement. Children high in intelligence and creativity are said to persevere toward problem solution in the face of adversity, show a high rate of responding to stimuli, and can tolerate ambiguity. It was hypothesized that a high loading of such factors would enable subjects to overcome the potentially debilitating experience of exposure to noncontingent reinforcement.^ Each of 104 subjects was exposed to one of 2 treatment contingencies: (1) an unsolvable discrimination problem solving task (noncontingently reinforced) followed by a pyramid puzzle problem as the dependent variable measure; or (2) a solvable discrimination problem solving task (contingently reinforced) followed by the pyramid puzzle problem.^ It was found (p < .01) that subjects who were exposed to the unsolvable treatment condition took significantly more time to solve the dependent measure than their solvable treatment group counterparts. In addition, the noncontingently reinforced treatment group also made significantly more moves to solution (p < .01) than the subjects in the solvable treatment group. Problem solving behavior was not significantly different across the 4 levels of intelligence-creativity.^ While the unsolvable treatment group did take longer to solve the pyramid puzzle (an indication of the effectiveness of the learned helplessness induction) the higher rate or responding for these subjects was evidence for their increased motivation to succeed following their initial problem solving difficulty. This result contradicts the prediction of learned helplessness theory. Therefore, while exposure to noncontingent reinforcement produced disorganization and uneconomical solution strategies in this sample, it did not seriously impair the subjects' abilty to solve the problem.^ The research also added to the data regarding the relationship of intelligence to creativity. At such high levels of intelligence correlation with creativity was not significant, supporting the findings of other studies. ^

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

TSARNAS, CHARLES PETER, "THE INTELLIGENCE-CREATIVITY DISTINCTION AND LEARNED HELPLESSNESS IN GIFTED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8021011.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8021011

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