Effects of Prolonged Deprivation on Learned Helplessness

Article Summary

Mal, Jain, and Yadav explored the impacts of prolonged deprivation on the perception of learned helplessness across the genders (191-1970). The study was conducted to determine the responses of deprived and non-deprived students to unsolvable tasks administered to them under high pressure. The researchers worked from the hypothesis that people who had undergone prolonged deprivation were more likely to develop a sense of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and helplessness compared to those who were non-deprived. The second hypothesis was that females were more likely to show signs of helplessness compared to males. This kind of helplessness was described as learned helplessness and attributed to the broad differences in socialization between deprived and non-deprived persons as well as between males and females in the society. For these reasons, highly-deprived persons were bound to maintain a negative self-image or to develop a convenient and unassailable explanation for undesired outcomes.

To achieve the study objectives, the researchers applied an experimental methodology. The study began with the administration of a prolonged deprivation scale (PDS) test to students. 104 students were rated based on the results from the PDS. The participants were all students at Bhiwani High School in India. 52 of the 104 students were female while the rest were male. To induce learned helplessness, the participants were issued with 10 unsolvable block designs administered individually. They were then told they had been unsuccessful in solving the block designs. Immediately afterward, the students were administered with 20 unsolvable anagrams to resolve in 100s. Their reactions were monitored. They were later presented with post-experiment questionnaires to explain their poor performance. The questionnaire was designed along three, 11 point bipolar scales including stable-unstable, internal-external, and global-specific.

The results from the post-experiment questionnaires were analyzed in two groups. The first group was for those who had shown high deprivation in the PDS test while the second belonged to those who had shown low deprivation levels as per PDS. The results analysis was performed using ANOVA, and the findings discussed extensively. The findings showed that there was a high correlation between deprivation and feelings of learned helplessness. Individuals who were highly-deprived were more likely to portray feelings of worthlessness. This was attributed to adverse conditions which produced feelings of incompetence, helplessness, and loss of control. Females also registered greater feelings of learned helplessness compared to males. For the females, their feelings were attributed to discrepant socialization levels and characteristics across genders. Females also attributed their reasons for failure to internal, stable, and global reasons more frequently compared to males.

Critique of the Study

The depth and attributes of the study show that it was effective both in content and in structure. The content, for instance, embodies the expected characteristics as evidenced in past literature on the same subject. One of the features of a research paper, which helps to demonstrate efficiency in research, is the reliability and validity of the study. In examining reliability, the definition given by Creswell, a study is described as reliable based on the reliability of the methods used and their ability to give consistent results when re-used under similar and stable conditions (116). In the study by Mal et al., the method described is based on past studies which confirmed the tests reliable and consistent in terms of the study outcomes (192). As such, the present study can also be considered reliable given that the methods are globally acceptable and confirmed to be reliable. In terms of validity, the constructs of a research paper determine the factors under consideration when exploring validity. In an experimental research design such as that used by Mal et al., validity is considered the core of any experimental assessment that is both accurate and trustworthy (193). Evaluating the validity of a study is accomplished through a review of the variables tested and their effectiveness in measuring the attributes for which they are used. In the present study, the authors used learned helplessness as a variable subject to prolonged deprivation and gender. Given that past studies had shown the causality relationship between the dependent and independent variables in the study, it is deductible that the methods, and subsequently the study by Mal and others was both reliable and valid.

The results from the study also correspond to the research questions. From the introduction through to the conclusion, the researchers consistently followed through their research objectives and the hypotheses. As such, the research findings perfectly fit the expectations of the reader. The researchers also interpreted the findings correctly in the discussion section. It is generally a good research practice to link research findings to past studies that provide rationales for similar findings. In the study under consideration, the researchers not only find the right interpretations through statistical analysis but also peg the findings to appropriate references from past studies.

While the method and the research interpretations were complete and suitable for the study, the researchers did not mention anything about ethical considerations in research. The standard practice in conducting primary research with human subjects is to adhere to certain precepts of ethical conduct. For instance, the researchers were supposed to inform the participants and only allow them to engage in the study based on informed consent. According to Creswell, the basic principles of ethical conduct in primary research include obtaining informed consent, confidentiality, and privacy in data management and non- publication of data without the participant’s consent (161). Mal et al. failed to comply with any of these requirements or rather did not report on how they managed ethical considerations in the research. As much as the students were in the custody of their school, the researchers should have sought permission from the school administration to engage the students in the study, and report the same during publication.

The methods and findings of the study were effective in accomplishing study objectives. From a strong thesis statement, the researchers managed to provide strong results and similarly strong interpretations. They also recommended follow up studies, purporting that future studies should focus on specific socio-cultural differences between the genders and among people of the same PDS rating. Moreover, the methods used have no mentioned limitations and have proven effective over a series of researches in the past. The study findings imply that differences in performance and perceptions of people about their poor performances can be attributed to prolonged deprivation. Educators and other professionals, therefore, should learn to understand the socio-cultural conditions of their students and followers respectively and thus explain their limitations in performance.

The structure of the paper also follows the standard structure for academic research papers. Through a combination of word choice, sentence construction, and general outline, the researchers managed to create a strong flow. The introduction provides a strong background to the study, and the methods section provides a repeatable description of the process including all controls. The study also has clearly stated hypotheses and a discussion centered on those hypotheses. It is, therefore, concluded that the paper reflects the strength of research and pragmatic research practices.


The study by Mal, Jain, and Yadav reflects a phenomenon of sociological research that has been a subject of discussion by various past studies (191-197). The study aimed to determine the relationship between prolonged deprivation and learned helplessness and that between gender and learned helplessness. Through the use of a primary approach to research, the researchers managed to confirm their hypotheses. The paper was also constructed effectively to correspond to standard practices in research representation. The authors also described their research subjects satisfactorily. The article has been established to be both reliable and valid based on the backings of previous studies and the findings of the present one.

The authors highlighted the article’s main points clearly and concluded that their hypotheses were true. The first conclusion drawn was that individuals who had undergone prolonged deprivation showed greater signs of learned helplessness than those who were non-deprived. In terms of gender, the females showed greater responsiveness to prolonged deprivation compared to the males. The authors concluded that prolonged deprivation was indeed a cause of learned helplessness. Future studies in the subject were proposed to consider the different socio-cultural factors used to describe prolonged deprivation and how they specifically affect learned helplessness.


Works Cited

Creswell, John W. Research Ddesign: Qualitative, Qquantitative, and Mmixed Mmethods Aapproaches. Sage Publications, 2014.

Mal, Suraj, Jain, Uday and Yadav, K.S. Effects of Pprolonged Ddeprivation on Llearned Hhelplessness. The Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 130, no. 2, (1989): 191- 197.