Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Learned Helplessness

From Ellen J. Langer (1989) "Mindfulness"

 "Learned helplessness was originally demonstrated in rats. When placed in ice water, they have no difficulty swimming around for forty to sixty hours. However, if, instead of being put immediately into the water, the rats are held until they stop struggling, something very different happens. Instead of swimming, these rats give up immediately and drown." Langer (1989) p. 64
Isn't this totally mind blowing?!

3 comments:

  1. Same is true for the boiling frogs, known since the 19th century. You know the story definitely:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

    And unfortunately both are anecdotes for what goes on for and around many of us.

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  2. Thanks for the link!
    There is a little difference. The idea is that if I try a task "A" many times and fail then I may "transfer" the same attitude (learned helplessness) to another task "B", even if "B" may be quite easy to do!

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  3. Oh, that's if between "...very different happens." and "instead of swimming..." they take the rats and put them in a different pot of ice water. I thought they put them in the water and in this same pot the rats are kept from struggling.
    You are right, these would be different.

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