Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control

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9780195044669: Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control
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When experience with uncontrollable events gives rise to the expectation that future events will also elude control, disruptions in motivation, emotion, and learning may ensue. The theory of learned helplessness refers to the problems that follow in the wake of uncontrollability. First described in the 1960s to account for behavior changes in laboratory animals, learned helplessness over the years has been applied to a variety of human problems entailing inappropriate passivity to demoralization. The best-known application of learned helplessness has been as an explanation of depression, although numerous other extensions have been made, most recently to physical illness and death. At the same time, basic studies with both people and animals have continued, mapping out the cognitive and biological aspects of learned-helplessness theory and research. Written by pioneers of the model, this book summarizes and integrates the theory, research efforts, and applications of learned helplessness. Each line of work is evaluated critically in terms of what is known and what is not known. Future directions are sketched as well. More generally, the present book argues that a theory which emphasizes personal control is of particular interest because individuality and control are such salient emphases in contemporary culture. That our current age of personal control creates casualties precisely because of these emphases is also discussed. This timely and valuable work will interest a broad spectrum of clinicians and researchers in psychology and social work.

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About the Author:

Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at University of Michigan.

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"The applications of the theory [of learned helplessness] to current issues (including depression, academic achievement, and physical well-being) are exciting, thought-provoking, and highly relevant." --Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health


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