Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Carl D. Cheney


Carl D. Cheney


Experimental examination of the generality of learned helplessness has previously been confined to treatment and tests employing aversive motivators, such as electric shock. In the present study, rats were used to evaluate the effect of inescapable shock on their performance in a water test of competitive dominance which employs no aversive motivator. The subjects were paired and pre-tested for competitive dominance. In the experimental groups one member of each pair was treated with inescapable shock and the pairs were then post-tested for competitive dominance either 48, 72, or 168 hours after treatment. The control subjects were pre- and post-tested with no treatment intervening. Competitive dominance ranks were assigned to subjects after each test. Rank differences from pre- to post-test were analyzed for treated and control subjects. Controls showed no shifts in dominance from pre- to post-test, while significant shifts toward subordination appeared in all three experimental groups. No treated subjects showed shifts toward dominance. Significant pre- to post-test differences in drinking time were produced in all treatment groups, with the greatest difference at 72 hours after treatment. These results parallel those of Glazer and Weiss (1976) for escape time latencies at different times of posttreatment testing. The results of the present study, in contrast to those of Glazer and Weiss, cannot be accounted for by the principles of stimulus control. Instead, they support the claim of Maier and Seligman (1976) for considerable generality to the effect of learned helplessness, though the generality observed in this study is not explained by current principles of learning theory.



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