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ERIC Number: ED167900
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1978-Mar
Poor Performance After Unsolvable Problems: Learned Helplessness or Self-Esteem Protection?
Frankel, Arthur; Snyder, Melvin L.
People often perform poorly on tasks following experience with unsolvable problems. Two competing explanations for this performance deficit (learned helplessness and egotism) were tested. Subjects were given either solvable or unsolvable discrimination problems and then a series of anagrams which were alleged to be either highly or moderately difficult. Subjects previously given unsolvable problems did better on the anagrams when led to believe the anagrams were highly difficult. This result is contrary to a learned helplessness theory interpretation which attributes performance deficits following unsolvable problems to the belief that outcomes are independent of responses. Instead, this result supports an egotism explanation which maintains that people are not likely to try hard on a task following experience with unsolvable problems. That is, following failure, people are not likely to try hard on a task, unless a poor performance would not pose a further threat to their self-esteem. (Author)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association (49th, Washington, D.C., March 29-April 1, 1978)