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Groups of conceptually complex and simple female subjects were exposed to escapable or inescapable noise, or no noise pre-treatments within an instrumental-cognitive learned helplessness paradigm. Subsequently, subjects completed anagram tasks, and their performance was evaluated in terms of complexity level and helplessness effects. Consistent with predictions, conceptually complex subjects performed better than the conceptually simple subjects after exposure to the inescapable noise condition which was designed to induce learned helplessness. As expected, these complexity differences in anagram performance were not observed in the escapable noise condition. In an interesting, but unexpected, finding the conceptually simple subjects showed greater performance decrements relative to complex subjects in the no noise condition on two of the dependent measures. Overall, the data suggest that conceptual complexity level does mediate the experience of learned helplessness. Specifically, it appeared that the conceptually complex subjects were less negatively affected than simple subjects as a result of exposure to an uncontrollable, aversive situation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1982-01-01

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