Term of Award

Summer 2013

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Kent Bodily

Committee Member 1

Bradley Sturz

Committee Member 2

Janice Steirn

Abstract

Exposure to an inescapable aversive stimulus decreases escape responses to subsequent escapable aversive stimuli. This is known as the learned helplessness effect. In the present experiment, human participants were trained in an immersive, 3D virtual environment analog of an operant chamber using an inescapable aversive stimulus, an escapable aversive stimulus, or no aversive stimulus. Then, all participants were tested using an immersive, 3D virtual environment analog of a shuttle box using an escapable aversive stimulus. Participants trained with an inescapable aversive stimulus were slower to escape during testing than participants trained with an escapable aversive stimulus. The current results demonstrate that the learned helplessness effect can be established in humans using 3D virtual environments and a mild aversive stimulus.

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