ALTERATIONS IN ACHIEVEMENT ATTRIBUTIONS AND THE REVERSAL OF LEARNED HELPLESSNESS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN

DAVID MICHAEL RUBIN, Fordham University

Abstract

Just as individuals can learn that responding produces predictable outcomes, they can also learn that outcomes are independent of responding. Individuals often come to perceive that they are ineffectual in altering environmental events after repeated exposure to response-outcome nontingency. When this inefficacy of responding is attributed to internal, stable, global factors, learned helplessness results. Learned helplessness is characterized by the development of an expectancy that responding will continue to be ineffective in influencing outcomes, and by the cognitive, motivational, and affective manifestations of this expectancy.^ Helpless individuals have been found to attribute failure to internal, stable, global causes, and success to external, unstable, specific causes with greater frequency than nonhelpless individuals. Previous studies have attempted to alter attributions in an effort to reverse helplessness. The majority have focused on attributions made for failure, with failure most often being attributed to a lack of effort. In those studies that have involved modifications in attributions made for success, success has usually been attributed to the presence of effort. In the present study the number of factors to which failure could be attributed was broadened to include lack of effort, task difficulty, and bad luck, while success was attributed to ability rather than effort. In addition, to assess the value of a "self-instruction" program in facilitating attribution retraining, helpless subjects trained to make the aforementioned attributions for success and failure on their own were compared with helpless subjects provided with the same attributions by the experimenter.^ Each of the 60 elementary school children involved in the study was randomly assigned to one of the two attribution retraining groups or to a control group. It was found that both of the attribution retraining procedures were ineffective in modifying attributions for success and failure and in increasing persistence following failure. However, increases in the number of success attributions made to ability and in the number of failure attributions made to lack of effort, task difficulty, and bad luck were strongly associated with an improvement in performance following failure. This finding supported the prediction of reformulated learned helplessness theory. ^

Subject Area

Psychology

Recommended Citation

RUBIN, DAVID MICHAEL, "ALTERATIONS IN ACHIEVEMENT ATTRIBUTIONS AND THE REVERSAL OF LEARNED HELPLESSNESS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8326187.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8326187

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