Learned Helplessness in Physical Education: A Developmental Study of Causal Attributions and Task Persistence

in Journal of Teaching in Physical Education
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The purpose of this study was to describe the effect of age on specific psychological and behavioral measures of learned-helpless and mastery-oriented students. The study consisted of two age groups, younger and older, of learned-helplessness and mastery-oriented students. Within each age group, learned-helpless and mastery-oriented students were compared in terms of attributional profiles and levels of task persistence during instruction. Students were asked to view videotapes of their performances, to describe how they thought they did on each task, and to give reasons for their performance. Responses were classified into four attributional categories: (a) ability, (b) effort, (c) task difficulty, and (d) environment or luck. Persistence was also determined by looking at the number of times students would attempt a task. Attributional profiles and task persistence associated with the leamed-helpless condition was more prevalent with the older group than with the younger group.

Thomas J. Martinek is with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412. Joseph B. Griffith III is with Liberty School, Liberty, NC 27298.

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