Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

John F. Stevenson


The present study explored the development of learned helplessness. The major question examined whether learned helplessness and its related attributional style were global or situation specific. It was hypothesized that the more bureaucratically structured a situation was perceived to be the more learned helplessness would be manifested. It was argued that the relationship between organizational control and individual commitment could be explained by the reformulated learned helplessness hypothesis.

Subjects in the study were 154 college freshmen and sophomores aged 18 to 24. All subjects completed a questionnaire which assessed individual characteristics (socioeconomic status, locus of control and previous experience in organizations), attributional style and the manifestation of learned helplessness. The latter two sets of variables were presented within group and societal contexts.

The hypothesized relationship among the sets of variables was tested using multivariate analysis with latent variables. The data were analyzed using LISREL IV. Four structural models were tested (interaction, situation, global attribution, non-attribution). While the results were generally inconclusive, the data was suggestive of the proposed hypothesis. The need for further research in this direction was demonstrated.



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