engaged in the practice of clinical psychology where he can apply the principles of histheory in helping people with real-life problems. Drawing on his clinical work and histeaching experience, Seligman has recently collaborated on a textbook in abnormal psychology, (Rosenhan and Seligman. 1984).In 1976, in recognition of his research and writing, the American PsychologicalAssociation presented Seligman with its Early Career Award.
In the natural world, Seligman observes, traumatic events that pa person or an animal cando little or nothing to control may occur, when the organism discovers that it can donothing to escape or ward off ward such an event when it learns that reinforcement and behavior are not contingent on each other it may acquire a reaction that Seligman calls
Learned helplessness has three components: emotional,motivational, and cognitive. First, Seligman says, the organism experiences
, and intense experience peculiar to the situation of having no control over unpleasant events. Second, the organism experiences
; it be have passively and appears to “give up” making little effort to escape a noxious stimulus.Third, and most serious of all, is
that interferes with the organism’scapacity to perceive the relation between response and reinforcement in other, similar situations in which control is possible.In the original formulation of his theory, Seligman proposed that learned helplessness andthe psychotherapy phenomenon of depression have similar origins. The behaviors of thedepressed person strikingly resembled behaviors associated with learned helplessness.More important, methods that reduced experimentally induced learned helplessness wereshown to be effective also in treating depressive reactions. As we will see, this proposal if Seligman’s was rather widely criticized, and he has since revised his conception of therelations between learned helplessness and depression. To understand his currentformulation, let us first look at his model of how learned helplessness is acquired.3