Explanatory Style and Achievement in School and Work
University of Pennsylvania
Research since 1980 has supported the theory that explanatory style predicts achievement in various domains, such as in school, work, sports, and politics. In this chapter, I first discuss the attributional reformulation of the learned helplessness theory and how it relates to achievement. Second, I review related theories of achievement. Third, I review four studies relating explanatory style to school achievement and four studies relating explanatory style to work achievement. Finally, I discuss the implications of this research for school intervention programs and corporate selection, placement, and training programs. Later chapters in this section discuss the role of explanatory style in sports and politics, and cross-cultural differences in explanatory style.
The original learned helplessness theory stated that experience with uncontrollable events can lead to the expectation that desired outcomes are independent of one's actions ( Maier & Seligman, 1976; Seligman, 1975). This expectation of helplessness leads to three types of deficits that closely resemble human depression: motivational (lowered response initiation and persistence), cognitive (inability to perceive contingencies between actions and outcomes), and emotional (sadness and lowered self-esteem).
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Publication information: Book title: Explanatory Style. Contributors: Gregory McClellan Buchanan - Editor, Martin E. P. Seligman - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 159.
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