Learned Helplessness Model

  • Martin Seligman (1975), founder of positive psychology introduced learned helplessness model of depression.
  • This theory helped to understand the development of depression.
  • This theory was explained in an experiment by preventing a dog from escaping electric shocks, and it will stop trying to get away.
  • Learned helplessness explains how exposure to trauma that is impossible to avoid may lead to apathy, passivity, and a conviction that escaping future traumatic events
    is also impossible.
Major Concepts
  • Learned helplessness refers to a state in which "uncontrollable, unpredictable aversive events, which leads to a failure to learn avoidance or an escape response to that event even when it is avoidable or escapable".
  • Seligman's theory states that learned helplessness is s form of depression.
  • Depressed people seem to lack normal emotions and become somewhat apathetic, often staying in unpleasant work environments or bad marriages or relationships rather that trying to escape or better their situation. (Ciccarelli & Meyer, 2008)
  • Effects of learned helplessness include decreased effort and persistence, reduced learning, belief that outcomes do not depend on behavior and anxiety or depression.
  1. Ciccareloi SK, Meyer GE. Psychology: South Asia Edition. Pearson Education & Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt. Ld., New Delhi, 2008.


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