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Lieder, F., Goodman, ND, & Huys, QJM (2013). Learned helplessness and generalization. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.) Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 900-905). Austin TX: Cognitive Science Society.

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We present a revision of the 1978 reformulated theory of helplessness and depression and call it the hopelessness theory of depression. Although the 1978 reformulation has generated a vast amount of empirical work on depression over the past 10 years and recently has been evaluated as a model of depression, we do not think that it presents a clearly articulated theory of depression. We build on the skeletal logic of the 1978 statement and (a) propose a hypothesized subtype of depression— hopelessness depression, (b) introduce hopelessness as a proximal sufficient cause of the symptoms of hopelessness depression, (c) deemphasize causal attributions because inferred negative consequences and inferred negative characteristics about the self are also postulated to contribute to the formation of hopelessness and, in turn, the symptoms of hopelessness depression, and (d) clarify the diathesis—stress and causal mediation components implied, but not explicitly articulated, in the 1978 statement. We report promising findings for the hopelessness theory and outline the aspects that still need to be tested. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Pigeons on concurrent variable-ratio variable-ratio schedules usually, though not always, maximize reinforcements per response. When the ratios are equal, maximization implies no particular distribution of responses to the two alternatives. When the ratios are unequal, maximization calls for exclusive preference for the smaller ratio. Responding conformed to these requirements for maximizing, which are further shown to be consistent with the conception of reinforcement implicit in the matching law governing relative responding in concurrent interval schedules.
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In a series of five experiments, we investigated the bidirectional effects of prior experience with both control or lack of control over shock on subsequent shock-motivated activity and escape learning. Rats were tested with inescapable shock rather than escapable shock as is used in typical helplessness experiments. Naive rats initially shuttled frequently during shock but decreased activity as testing continued. Pretraining with inescapable shock reduced shuttle responding throughout testing. Unexpectedly, rats which first learned to lever press to escape shock continued unabated shuttling through 200 trials of 10-sec duration inescapable shocks (Experiment 1). These bidirectional effects were replicated using a shuttle escape response for pretreatment and lever pressing as the test response. During two uninterrupted 1000-sec duration inescapable shocks (Experiment 2), escape rats continued to lever press through the 2000-sec of shock. In the third experiment, escapable shock facilitated and inescapable shock hindered later learning when the escape contingency was degraded by a 3-sec delay of shock termination. The fourth and fifth experiments demonstrated that (1) this associative facilitation effect is not simply due to an increase in active responding by escape animals (Experiment 4), and (2) no associative facilitation is observed if the contingency is not initially degraded by a 3-sec delay (Experiment 5). Taken together, these results are the first demonstration of bidirectional effects of control on aversively motivated behavior in animals. In addition to typical helplessness effects, a “mastery” phenomenon is observed. This mastery induced by experience with escape learning is characterized by (1) a motivational effect: persistent general active behavior in the face of inescapable shock, and (2) an associative effect: facilitation in learning degraded response-shock contingencies. These are the opposite of helplessness effects, operationally and descriptively, and may be opposite in process as well.
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Deficits in learning to escape from electric shock following exposure to response-independent preshocks have frequently been reported and have been referred to as learned helplessness. Experiments were conducted in order to determine whether a phenomenon similar to learned helplessness could be induced in appetitive free-operant procedures with pigeons. Subjects received preliminary training under one of the following conditions; protracted exposure to response-dependent grain presentations (key pecking), protracted exposure to response-independent grain deliveries, or short-term hopper training. Subjects were then tested for acquisition of a treadle-pressing response which was the only means of access to grain in the experimental chamber. The acquisition of the treadle-pressing response was retarded following protracted exposure to response-independent grain deliveries and the degree of this retardation was related to the complexity of the response-reinforcer contingency.
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Previous research has shown that preexposure to inescapable shock interferes with subsequent acquisition of escape responding, while pretraining with escapable shock facilitates subsequent acquisition of a different escape response. It has also been demonstrated that interference and facilitation persist when the aversive event is changed between the two phases of training. The present experiment extended these findings, showing generalized learning from an appetitive to an aversive situation. Six groups of rats received the following treatment in the presence of discriminative stimuli: One group was trained to nose press for food, a second to chain pull for food, and a third to chain pull to escape or avoid shock. Two groups received either signalled free food or inescapable shock, and a naive control group received no pretreatment. All groups were then tested in a nose-press escape-avoidance situation. The three groups with prior response training acquired responding most rapidly, and at the same rate. The naive controls acquired responding slowly, and the two groups with response-independent histories did not acquire responding during the 5 days of training. It was concluded that rats learn the relationship between responding and environmental events and that such learning strongly influences subsequent learning.