Friday, 6 August 2010

Martin Seligman's Dogs

Sometime in the 1960s Martin Seligman poked electrodes to dogs and made them howl and urinate involuntarily. Martin Seligman, if you don't know who he is, is not an animal abuser but a highly respected American psychologist and author of several self help books.

Apart from learning that he can make dogs urinate at his will, Seligman , with the results of that controversial experiment also founded the theory of "learned helplessness". An interesting theory and one which the American military have used very well in countries they occupy and destroy.

Learned helplessness is a condition where an individual has learned to behave helplessly. Just like the dogs in Mr Seligman's experiments, an individual subjected to prolong period of an unpleasant condition or abuse without the control to prevent it, over time will behave helplessly even when the opportunity arises to break free from the condition.

The abuse spouse who does not walk away from a marriage, the worker who keeps complaining 'nothing ever changes around here', but does nothing about it, had learned to become helpless.

Subsequent experiments by Seligman have found that optimism is the best preventive tool to avoid slipping into helpless behaviour.

No comments: