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First Advisor

Villanova, Peter

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


I conducted a longitudinal study to investigate whether the diathesis stress model of learned helplessness could account for differences in goal setting and performance. One week before a midterm exam, 136 college students completed questionnaires measuring explanatory style, threat appraisals, situational constraints, academic ability, level of depression, goal priorities, and academic goals. One week after the midterm exam, course grade goals were measured again and midterm exam scores were obtained. Results suggested modest support for the diathesis-stress model of learned helplessness: 1) Pessimists set lower goals with respect to the exam, but not with respect to course grade, 2) situational constraints and threat appraisals were predictive of goal setting, but not exam, 3) the interaction between explanatory style and situational constraints was not significant in predicting threat appraisals or goal difficulty, 4) goal priority was not significantly predictive of exam performance. Further discussion of the validity of this model must await more conclusive data.


Includes bibliographical references.


35 pages, 19 unnumbered pages




Northern Illinois University

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