Attributional processes underlying the generality of learned helplessness in low achievers in reading and mathematics

Roslyn Carol Thurm, Fordham University

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine if there are specific differences in the attribution patterns of low achievers in reading and mathematics. The globality dimension of attributions was examined as a possible mediator of the more generalized learned helplessness previously found to exist among low achievers in reading. The presence of sex differences in globality of attributional choice was also examined. It was expected that the low achievers in reading would exhibit a more global pattern of attributional choice than the low achievers in mathematics and that females would exhibit a more global pattern of attributional choice than the males.^ Fifty-nine students composed of a mixed sex group of low achievers in reading and mixed sex group of low achievers in mathematics were given tasks in their area of deficit and competence. Outcome was manipulated to provide a failure experience. Students then answered questionnaires designed to assess globality of attributions made. They were asked to make a forced choice between the global and specific components of each of the four major attributions: ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck.^ Study results yielded minimal differences in attributional patterns between low achievers in reading and mathematics and between sexes. Differences that were found were isolated and not necessarily in the predicted direction. More low achievers in reading chose specific attributions in their task area of deficit for the attribution of task difficulty and luck than low achievers in mathematics. The one expected result was that more males chose specific attributions in their task area of deficit on the attribution of luck than females.^ Study results may have been affected by methodological issues involving measurement of attributions and/or ecological validity as well as by the possibility that other variables may mediate the development of global versus specific attributions. Future research should involve the systematic development of more accurate measurement instruments and investigate the possible impact of other mediating variables upon globality of attributional choice. ^

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Educational psychology|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Thurm, Roslyn Carol, "Attributional processes underlying the generality of learned helplessness in low achievers in reading and mathematics" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9007195.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9007195

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