Is Control A Complex And Multidimensional Construct That Has Spawned A Large Body Of Research?

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Control is a complex and multidimensional construct that has spawned a large body of research in psychology since the end of the 1950s. Several theories of control and control-related constructs have been developed, acknowledging that the ability to feel in control over emotions, behaviours and cognitions is an essential element of mental and physical health across the lifespan (Shapiro, Schwartz, & Astin, 1996). One dimension of control that is suggested to be particularly of interest in psychopathology is the perception that one lacks control over negative events and emotional experiences (Weems & Silverman, 2006). Research has shown that a diminished sense of control is associated with the experience of negative emotion and mood…show more content…
Dunmore, Clark, & Ehlers, 1999). Research on diminished sense of control over negative experiences have been derived from three main theoretical perspectives, locus of control, self-efficacy and learned helplessness (LH). Although these theories are interrelated to a certain extent they also reflect slightly different aspects of perceptions of control over negative events. In this thesis, particular focus is given to the LH perspective. 2. History of Learned Helplessness The phenomenon of LH was discovered by accident in the mid-1960’s by a team of researchers who was studying the mechanisms of avoidance learning in dogs. Overmier and Leaf (1965) exposed dogs to a Pavlovian fear conditioning procedure in which a tone was paired with a subsequent electrical shock to the foot; however, no response made by the dogs could stop the shock. The dogs also received, before or after the fear conditioning task, an escape/avoidance training task in which dogs were to learn to escape a foot shock by jumping a barrier. Unexpectedly, Overmier and Leaf found that the dogs that received the fear conditioning procedure failed to learn avoidance of the shock during the subsequent procedure; instead, the dogs were observed to passively accept the shocks and not attempt to escape it. Overmier and Seligman (1967) conducted a series of subsequent experiments investigating potential explanations hypothesised to account for the effect. They exposed three groups
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