Talk:Learned helplessness

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There is a wealth of unsorted info and articles on this topics out there; please editors or somebody with power start the learned helplessnes page so I can help build it up. I think I hav eproben my point enough with this info.

Please help add this vital and missing concept via getting the references and distinctions in the right format and contrasts with learned helplessness. I can't do this alone as not a a wikipedia expert in references and not a psychologists. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:24, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

Besides the obvious linguistic similarity why is "learned hopelessness" related to learned helplessness as a distinct topic worthy of its own section, much less article? In the only half-way notable source I looked up they called "learned hopelessness" an extreme form of helplessness, eg: here and called "learned pessimism" a mild case of learned helplessness. It doesn't appear to be a distinct condition but, rather, a clever play on words for variations of degrees of learned helplessness (and uncommonly used as such.) One source I found accreditted the term to Martin Seligman, the source for the theory on learned helplessness. Indeed many of the sources I saw, poor as they were, seem to use hopelessness as a synonym for helplessness. Perhaps learned hopelessness should redirect to learned helplessness?--Cybermud (talk) 01:56, 11 December 2010 (UTC)

This man should be persecuted for crimes against nature. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:06, 16 June 2014 (UTC)


the sentence: "An example involves concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust, when some prisoners, called Mussulmen, refused to care or fend for themselves." sounds unbased to me (the mussulmen were people who starved to near-death.) i'm not changing it, but i think it's wrong. -- 21:03, 20 August 2006 (UTC)

Martin Seligman[edit]

This article should really mention Martin Seligman rather than Anthony Robbins when possible, since Seligman had a key role in the research developing the concept and Robbins did not. (I know, I know, the helping hand is at the end of my arm, but I'm mentioning this here because my new job is taking up most of my time and I may not get to it as soon as I'd like.) -- Antaeus Feldspar 00:34, 18 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The article mentions that questioning the "3 p's" can be beneficial, but does not expand on that line of thought at all. As such that sentence seems to stand on its own without really accomplishing anything. Does anyone have any information to add to that portion of the article? -- Kris wood 13:11, 28 Jun 2005 (PST)

The whole first section really needs to go. The first two paragraphs aren't horrible, but need revision and should mention Seligman as early as possible. The whole Learned Helplessness theory stems from Martin Seligman, and references should be to his work (books, etc.), and not Anthony Robbins. Calling Martin Seligman's study "Early work" is an insult to the guy who developed the theory and did the work. It's like saying Einsten did the "Early work" in Relativity.

MarkTAW 03:31, 25 Sept, 2005 (EST)

Acting on the suggestions above[edit]

1. Those above are right; Martin Seligman needs to be credited prominently with a theory he created and researched. Some early Wikipedia editor's familiarity with what Tony Robbins had to say about it does not mean that references to Tony Robbins belong in this article.

2. The idea of total institutions is controversial, and by no means are the institutions mentioned on that page extremely predictable, and even if they were, this is not a prerequisite for Learned Helplessness (this may be another example of Tony Robbins' armchair philosophizing about Learned Helplessness without his being sufficiently familiar with the research); I tried to save this paragraph as best I could.

3. "Personal, pervasive, or permanent" is the description Martin Seligman uses (for those of you who thought this was Tony Robbins).

4. There was a second edition of Learned Optimism in 1998, but Seligman lists the 1990 book in his Curriculum Vitae.

-DoctorW 23:15, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

Animal cruelty[edit]

I have reinserted the statement that the experiments were animal cruelty over Doc's objection. It seems fairly obvious to me that the infliction of pain that will in no way benefit the animal itself is clearly cruel (if it was done to a human it would clearly be considered cruel, so doing it to an animal is obviously "animal" cruelty.) I realize not all accept that inflicting pain on animals during testing is animal cruelty, but many do and we can have that criticism of the experiment included in the article. If you seek citation, for starters here is a NYT editorial arguing to that effect. Roy Brumback 23:14, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

I'm deleting the references to animal cruelty; they constitute a value judgment that is not germane to the article and manifestly violate WP:NPOV. If you'd like to discuss the cruelty aspect of the experiments, start a new subsection called "allegations of animal cruelty" and specify what published source (i.e. not yourself, WP:NOR) makes those arguments. The most we could say about the experiments while still being npov is the factual description, viz, that the experiments intentionally caused pain to animals, not for their own benefit, but for purposes of research which has produced results recognized as scientifically useful.JSoules (talk) 22:53, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
We can certainly say that various people have criticized these experiments as animal cruelty. Roy Brumback (talk) 10:53, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

As a compromise, I'm leaving the first reference to "animal cruelty" although I disagree with it. However, the line in the next paragraph, "In part two of the Seligman and Maier cruelty experiment..." is too much. If you referred to 'the cruel Seligman and Maier experiment', that would be grammatically correct, but it was not an experiment in cruelty. They were not inflicting pain on these dogs for giggles and grins. We innoculate human babies and I had my dog spayed. The infants and puppies didn't ask for the pain, nor do they understand why it was inflicted upon them, but that does not make it cruel. It is done for a purpose. Seligman's dogs did not benefit, but it was done for a purpose. In 1967 nobody knew what the psychological outcome would be. The editorial you reference (which is mainly concerned with food animals) says at one point "'Learned helplessness' is the psychological term,". THIS is the experiment where that term comes from! KeithJonsn (talk) 03:39, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

It was clearly an experiment to see what happened when you did cruel things to these dogs to see how they reacted based on what they believed they could do about stopping the pain that was being inflicted on them. How can you say that inflicting pain on something just to see what happens is not cruel? Because it had a purpose? Nazi experiments had a purpose and gained scientific knowledge, but they were still cruel. And just because you are not inflicting the pain for amusement does not mean its not cruel. And the author of the editorial clearly lists these specific experiments as cruel, as do several other sources, which I can cite if you wish. Roy Brumback (talk) 04:36, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
There's quite a difference between inflicting pain just to see what would happen, and inflicting pain as part of a controlled scientific experiment. "Cruelty" suggests that the experimenters received pleasure from the mere infliction of harm, which I doubt is the case. They'd probably be thrilled if there was a way to get the data without inflicting any pain. I think a better description might be "inhumane," or perhaps even "barbaric," as these words can describe the process of the experiments without implying any malicious intent from the experimenters.
""Cruelty" suggests that the experimenters received pleasure from the mere infliction of harm" No it doesn't; you're confusing 'sadism' with 'cruelty'. Cruelty according to the Collins English dictionary: "1. deliberate infliction of pain or suffering. 2. the quality or characteristic of being cruel." 'Cruel', however, is defined as inflicting pain/suffering without pity, so it depends whether the experimenters felt any pity for the animals, or were just cold automata when inflicting the pain (which would be sociopathic). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:12, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

I can't deny the potential benefits to experiments on learned helplessness but share the concerns mentioned above when it comes to the lack of humanity of learned helplessness experiments without consent. Animals cant, don't and wouldn't consent to experiments where they are repeatedly tortured until and after they lose hope and feel helpless. I oppose censorship and would never support restricting information on this subject but torturing animals should be banned regardless of potential benefits. Torturing intelligent animals such as dogs, cats and apes should be banned at the very least, if a blanket ban on torturing mammals or animals in general seems excessive or unrealistic at this time. Changing the status of drugs such as hydroxyzine from prescription to over the counter could reduce the demand for animal experiments as this antihistamine is far safer and better tolerated than any of the antihistamines currently sold OTC. [1] NicholaiXD (talk) 18:50, 8 March 2013 (UTC)

Button not connected[edit]

"...even though he rarely bothered to turn off the noise..."

It is my understanding that the button was not connected to the noise. It is quite important for it means that the improved performance stemmed solely from the BELIEF that the subject was able to turn it off. That is, a delusion may help one to cope.

-Pepper (talk) 13:10, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

Helplessness in People and their Health & Social Problem and Immunization[edit]

These sections are poorly written and even seem to draw the wrong conclusions from the research that they cite.

They're also very biased in favour of those wielding social power in cruel fashion, aiding and abetting the blaming of the individual for causing her/his own consequences post-cruelty, and thereby allowing those with social power to escape not only responsibility for what they've done, but the necessary actions to repair the damage they've caused to individuals, groups, nations, and the world. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:17, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Can I just say "yes" to this entire discussion, especially the comment above? The entire idea of so-called "learned helplessness" is incredibly offensive. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:44, 7 September 2014 (UTC)

"Usage of Learned helplessness for interrogating prisoners of CIA and guantanamo"[edit]

If the alleged quotations are true, they need to be sourced and explained more clearly. If the quotations can't be sourced, then this subsection should be deleted. - Pointillist (talk) 22:47, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

Does the Harpers footnote tie into this article as a source anymore? I read the article and couldn't figure out why it is a source. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:51, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

Implications for minorities?[edit]

It occurs to me that at least some of what we see in the malaise in minority communities, e.g. black, Hispanic, and nations, e.g. Haiti, may well be an idendity of helplessness writ large. I have not seen this posited as an explanation for some of the widely recognized phenomenon. It will be interesting to see whether a Black as President of the USA has a nuturing effect on the community, i.e. a positive, "no more (racial) excuses" affect on Black society. Frankatca (talk) 17:12, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

There's no such thing as 'Black society' - there's society, full stop. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:15, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

I am sure he meant culture, which is arguably possible to exist. But the capitalization of "black" seems odd, as does the article usage preceding the noun. Furthermore Barrack Obama is not "a black." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:54, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

1.1 Seligman and Maier[edit]

Removing this: "(how? their lever did not work)" From this sentence: "For the most part, the Group 3 dogs, who had previously "learned" that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks, simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks (how? their lever did not work), the dogs didn't try." Obviously the person who added it failed to understand that there were two parts of the test... Sardrith (talk) 04:18, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

What about the 'motor activation deficit' hypothesis proposed by J. Weiss & al. (1975) ?[edit]

The Study done by Weiss offers another, and in my eyes, a lot better explanation for the behavior first noted by Seligman&Maier.

It's not "learned helplessness" causing it, it's just having not enough norepinephrin (noradrenalin) in your brain.

But read it for yourselves:


R.M. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:12, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Roosevelt University PSYC 336 Project[edit]

Potential Work Cited[edit]

[Neurobiological/Neurochemical Information on Stressor Controllability 1]

[Neurobiological/Neurochemical Information on Synaptic Potentiation 1]

[Information Gender Learned Helplessness 1]

[Information on Dog Assistance with PTSD 1]

[Information on treatment for overcoming Learned Helplessness 1]

[Treatment for overcoming Learned Helplessness 1]

Rough Draft outline for Neurobiological Section[edit]

- Our topic is learned helplessness:

~~Overview - Ashley~~

The term ‘learned helplessness’ refers to a constellation of behavioral changes that follow exposure to stressors that are not controllable by means of behavioral responses, but that fail to occur if the stressor is controllable. This section will address the nature of learned helplessness, as well as the role of the dorsal raphe nucleus, serotonin, and corticotropin-releasing hormone in mediating the behavioral effects of uncontrollable stressors.

~~Brain Activity Summary - Ashley~~

This section will examine the activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, dorsal hippocampus, septum, hypothalamus, and amygdale as well as different hormonal/ neurochemical changes that take place when states of helplessness are educed

~~Gender differences: Heather~~

- Male and female brains and how they differ and how they are

~~PTSD: Mary~~

~~Depression: Mary: the link between learned helplessness and depression and why it matters.~~

~~Treatment: Heather~~

- Exactly how learned helplessness can be treated and the various options. Which one is the best and an explanation why.

Instructor's comments[edit]

  • Group, remember you are to add a section on neurobiological perspectives on the Learned Helplessness article. The proposed "Overview" is general definition and it is already covered in the article, so it's not appropriate to include in this section on neurobiology.
  • The proposed "Brain activity" section is precisely what you need to cover
  • If you want to talk about "gender differences", this must be a subsection under your "Brain activity" section and should address gender differences specific to the neurobiology of learned helplessness (i.e., don't present gender differences in brain organization in general terms)
  • PTSD, Depression, and Treatment sections are more appropriately dealt with in other sections of the Learned helplessness article and should not be subsections under your neurobiology section
  • So, focus on the section on "Brain activity". There's plenty in this section for you to research.
  • The references you have posted so far are not in the right format, and it's hard for me to judge whether they are appropriate. Nevertheless, from what I can figure out, it does not seem like any will be very helpful. Look for animal studies on fear and learned helplessness. There should be textbooks and chapters on this, so you shouldn't need to read original research. If you're still having trouble, come see me in my office; I have a textbook with a small section on this that can be a good starting point.

Neuropsychprof (talk) 17:26, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Critique of Article[edit]

  • Is it possible to add more to the 'Neurobiological Perspective' section? These regions mentioned, like the basolaterial nucleues and central nucleus of the amygdalas play a role in learned helplessness, but how? Are there any studies detailing the interplay of these Limbic system structures in producing Learned Helplessness? Is there a study examining the location Serotonin goes to in the brain when Learned Helplessness is present. This section should also hyperllnk all of the brain regions it includes, such as Raphe Nuclei, medial prefrontal cortex, dorsal hippocampus, septum, hypothalamus, stria terminalis and amygdala structures. The article is relatively balanced, which is good. Information is reliable. The information is sound; however, more information can be included in each some of the subsections, coherently tying it together to how it produces the phenomenon of Learned Helplessness. Phineurosia8 —Preceding undated comment added 01:24, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
  • I agree with Phineurosia8 above. Also, please follow Wikipedia formating in capitalization. For example, section headings should only have the first word capitalized. An editor had made "Neurobiological perspectives" change previously, but you capitalized the P in perspectives again. Please review Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#Section_headings. Neuropsychprof (talk) 13:25, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
  • As Phineurosia8 pointed out, the content you have is good. However, there must be a great deal of research out there that hasn't been mentioned, although I don't know much about this field and don't have any specific suggestions. You just need more content. As for adding hyperlinks, it's easy: confirm that the article you want to link to exists, then put double brackets around the term in your article. The article's history shows a lot of little edits from you; it looks like you were editing directly on the page. I would suggest that you instead use your sandbox for this kind of editing. You can copy the entire article from its edit box to your sandbox, mess around with it while saving it frequently, and then copy your changes back to the real article. I don't know if that's the standard way to use the sandbox, but it's what I did and it worked quite well. We restructured our whole article, though (we started with a stub which became a start-class through the work of another editor), so we needed to copy the whole thing. You could just work on your section if you're going to leave everything else as is, but you would have to make sure the references were OK once you copied to the real article by clicking Show Preview first. I agree with Neuropsychprof that you need to follow the formatting conventions of Wikipedia and the article. Even if you don't like the capitalization convention, you need to follow it in order to achieve consistency. I'm glad you clarified that 5-HT is serotonin. You could make that term a hyperlink to its article as well as the brain structures Phineurosia8 mentioned. Keep up the good work! FutureSocialNeuroscientist (talk) 01:23, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Smallman12q comments[edit]

  • Expand with more details. What changes are observed in the cortexes. How do these changes influence learned helplessness.
  • There is a lot of research done with animals (specifically livestock). Are there any similarities to humans?

Smallman12q (talk) 22:43, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

Nszynal-ru comments[edit]

  • The information provided is a great start to the article. Learned helplessness is a very large topic and a few more solid sources will make the article stand out.
  • Add more information from research experiments that explain the similarities and differences of learned helplessness between animals and humans.

Nszynal-ru (talk) 19:35, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Michellepapandrea comments[edit]

  • I really enjoyed your section on the Neurobiological Perspective. I think it's an important addition to your article. You mention that serotonin plays a big role in learned helplessness but you don't actually say what that role is. I think it would help if you were more specific when explaining that. Specificity is key.
  • Under that same section (Neurobiological Perspective) you mention other brain regions that are involved. That's great that you include those specific regions but you fail to mention how they're involved. No need to go into great lengths but adding this information will make the content of your article more substantial.
  • If possible, going into more detail about the different brain activity (under Neurobiological Perspective) could be very interesting. Again, no need to make this section unnecessary lengthly but brain activity is a major part of this section and I believe it will help you guys add depth to your article. Maybe including what type of brain activity occurs and when? Also, think that your organization of this section is great! Very easy to follow and the flow works.
  • Under your section titled, Health Implications and under the Depression section, I think starting this section off with defining what pessimistic explanatory style is would be beneficial for people who are not familiar with this topic. Otherwise, the content is substantial and easy to follow.

Michellepapandrea (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 01:06, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

Instructor's feedback[edit]

Group, I'm very concerned that you have not added substantially to the content in the Neurobiological perspectives section. I will email this group some readings. Please divide up the readings, meet to formulate an outline, and please come see me if you have questions. Neuropsychprof (talk) 07:28, 5 November 2012 (UTC)

Detail: Which study came first?[edit]

For the section Detail- It discusses that Seligman and Maier's (Failure to escape traumatic shock) study came first, then Overmier and Seligman's (Effects... avoidance responding) came later that year. This cannot be possible, as Seligman and Overmier was published in February, and Seligman and Maier was published in May. As further proof, the second study (S&M's Failure to Escape...) cites the first study in its beginning paragraphs. Rewrite? --Ispellwords (talk) 03:59, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
Cite error: There are <ref group=Neurobiological/Neurochemical Information on Stressor Controllability> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=Neurobiological/Neurochemical Information on Stressor Controllability}} template (see the help page).
Cite error: There are <ref group=Neurobiological/Neurochemical Information on Synaptic Potentiation> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=Neurobiological/Neurochemical Information on Synaptic Potentiation}} template (see the help page).
Cite error: There are <ref group=Information Gender Learned Helplessness> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=Information Gender Learned Helplessness}} template (see the help page).
Cite error: There are <ref group=Information on Dog Assistance with PTSD> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=Information on Dog Assistance with PTSD}} template (see the help page).
Cite error: There are <ref group=Information on treatment for overcoming Learned Helplessness> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=Information on treatment for overcoming Learned Helplessness}} template (see the help page).
Cite error: There are <ref group=Treatment for overcoming Learned Helplessness> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=Treatment for overcoming Learned Helplessness}} template (see the help page).