BRAIN FOOD: Are you suffering from ... Learned helplessness

BRAIN FOOD: Are you suffering from ... Learned helplessness - As Pavlov discovered, if you routinely give a dog an electric shock, it soon becomes helpless, feels unable to change and becomes depressed.

by HELEN KIRWAN-TAYLOR, helen@kirwantaylor.demon.co.uk
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

As Pavlov discovered, if you routinely give a dog an electric shock, it soon becomes helpless, feels unable to change and becomes depressed.

In humans, learned helplessness is often hijacked by cunning office workers.

We all know someone who 'just can't figure out' PowerPoint or even how to use the coffee machine, in the hope that others will do it for them.

Husbands often suffer from this condition. When asked to chop onions, they cut their finger. The wife sends them off with a plaster and does the job herself. Though the more serious version of learned helplessness requires anti-depressants, most victims are loathe to seek treatment.

It's got them this far, so why bother? The best medicine is to hand them the plaster after they've cut their finger without removing the knife.

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