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Learned Helplessness: The Experiment

Are you the type of person who is always at the edge of life? For example, do you think negativity is your most common reality, and no matter what you do, there is always a terrible consequence following your actions? Well, let me tell you that there is a scientific explanation for this situation. In this article, we are going to explain the concept behind the idea of learned helplessness. 

Martin Seligman, a behavioral psychologist, believed that feelings of control and power are learned through experiences. He explains that when people tend to feel they have control of the situation, subsequently, their actions produce the desired effect. However, when people obtain negative results from their efforts and have innumerable intent, and it does not work, they automatically think they do not have power or control over a problem. 

Methodology of the Experiment 

This experiment used 24 mongrel dogs, divided into three groups of eight. Those groups were group 1, group 2, and group 3. This experiment aimed to measure learning experience through a box with electric shocks—dogs in group 1 received shock. Group 2 also received an electric shock, but they had a panel on each side of the head to stop the shock. Group 3 was the control group with zero electric shocks. The shocks used in this experiment were painful but not physically harmful for any of the dogs. Therefore each dog of group 1 was paired with a dog in group 2, which means they had the same amount of electric shock and for the same period. In this situation, group 1 did not control the electric shock, and it only stopped when group 2 pressed the panel and stopped it. Group 3 did not receive any electric shocks. 

Group 2 learned how to stop the shock with the panel. Hours later, subjects of groups 1 and 2 were separated in a box with a light. The package had two sides: the left side with electric shock and the right without electric shocks. When the light went off, an electric shock would pass through the left side of the box only. The subjects had the option of jumping to the right or staying on the left side. Learning was measured by the amount of time it took the dog to jump to the other side of the box; and the percent of dogs in each group that successfully jumped to the other side of the box.


First, the amount of time it took for group 2 to press the panel to stop the shocks decreased, while group 1 stopped pushing the board of the box after some attempts. The difference was enormous between groups 1 and 2 when they were placed in separate containers with light instead of the panel. There was no significant difference between groups 2 and 3, where the dogs were able to just to the right to avoid the shock. However, most of the dogs in group 1 failed to jump to the right side to prevent the shock. Six dogs in group 1 could not escape the electric shocks. Remember, there were eight dogs in each group. Days later, the six dogs who failed to jump to the right side of group 1 were placed in the same environment to determine the longevity effects of the experiment. Five of the dogs were unable to escape the electric shocks on every trial. 

Importance and Criticism

Seligman concluded that a dog’s ability to escape the shock was connected to learning to manipulate the outcome. Group 2 learned that their behavior influenced the electric shocks. While group 2 did not realize the connection between their behavior and the surprises. Experimenting with animals may not be ethical. Still, the founding and the benefit of those types of experiments are favorable for the use of psychology and human beings in general.

From my perspective, now we can make some conclusions based on those observations. How people react to present challenging scenarios is how they will handle complex procedures in the future. If you have been experiencing a difficult problem for a long time, you may believe that life is unjust or get to the point where you consider yourself stupid and useless. But that is incorrect; past experiences make you think that you do not control the situation when in reality, you just have not learned the proper technique to overcome those obstacles and take action. 

When people work in a job and are not satisfied with the results, if they try to change the situation and fail, the outcome makes them believe they are not good enough. That attitude or behavior is called learned helplessness. However, those who try to learn new skills and get a better job feel that they have the power and control over the situation, so they tend to be happier with the result.  

Once you realize that all the obstacles in your life result from your perception and handling the problem, you are one step closer to a better you. We have to learn the right thoughts and approaches. We need to know how to prevent and avoid getting shocked by those painful and physically harmful shocks that life throws at us.

Public announcement

I am posting this context to learn, grow, evolve, and be the best person you can be. I love seeing the growth in people, especially when they contact me to tell me how much they appreciate my work and how much they have learned about themself just because of those articles. 

Therefore I have a public announcement. I have been working on a unique course for all of you who want to take the next step into becoming the best version of yourself. This course will contain different lectures and exercises that will guarantee your personal growth. I am sure you do not want to be one of the dogs in group 1 who never learn how to avoid negative situations. Who believed that they did not have the power to control their surroundings. Who got shocked after shock after shock and did nothing to stop it. 

I want you to be like dogs in group 2, resilient, with the ability to take action whenever needed to protect yourself and others—someone who does not give up in life and finds a solution to every problem. Someone who does not wait for an issue to disappear; instead, they take actions to erase the pain. 

I will be releasing more information about this incredible course soon. Stay tuned; you will love it.

With love,

Our Garden

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