Learned Helplessness Experiments


Learned helplessness is one of the mental state conditions wherein an organism is subjected into aversive stimuli that it cannot able to escape. The theory of learned helplessness was developed by US psychologist Martin Seligman in 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania. Because of his interest in depression he was able to conduct a painful experiment using dogs. With the experiments of learned helplessness dogs were exposed to an aversive stimulus which they cannot escape.


On the first part of the experiment, Seligman and Steve Maier place the three dogs (group 1) in a harness then after a period of time they have released it. The next group of dog was exposed into pain because it was given electric shocks that can only end by pressing the lever. The third group of dogs received those same shocks that were experience by the group two with the exception that this group were not able to control the intensity of the shock. Those dogs that belong into the third group were given shocks that are outside of their control.

After the experiment, the two psychologists’ place the dogs in a shuttle box. That dog that belongs in the first and second group was the first who jumped on the barrier to avoid the shocks. But, those dogs on the third group did not make any attempt to jump outside to avoid the shock. Dogs that lacked the control failed to take an action that have shown the sign of learning helplessness.

Because of this, many have also tried their experiments using different types of animals and also even in humans. Through different experiments they have learn that there are certain psychological factors that affects a person or an animal to develop learned helplessness. Some of those factors are because of depression, phobias, anxiety and loneliness. Just for example, if a child feels shy with his classmates, he will feel that he can do nothing to overcome it. He develops a certain fear that lead he to stop trying to make friends with other, because of this he is more developing his shyness.

How to Overcome Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness is caused by depression and fear that you are feeling that results in uncontrolled of certain things. To help you overcome with this, you should remove all the worries and negativities that you are experiencing in life. It is also necessary that once in while you should also give yourself a break especially during stressful work. Feel free to talk with others. Always be your friends and family so that you will learn how to get communicate with others. Just always feel relax, comfortable and let go of your worries. You will be at peace if you will remove all those burdens that you are feeling. Try to be more expose in your environment and always be willing to try new things that will simply make you more enjoyed. You can live a happy life if you are free from all worries and if you know how to handle different situations calmly.

-Flow Psychology Editor