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Seligman, Martin

Peter Schulman

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


Martin Seligman has made significant contributions to research on learned helplessness; depression; interventions that prevent depression; the relationship between optimism/pessimism and depression, achievement and physical health; positive psychology; and interventions that build strengths and well-being. Born in 1942 in Albany, New York, Seligman and his older sister, Elissa Beth, were raised by loving parents, Irene and Adrian. Seligman graduated from Princeton University in 1964 with a BA in Philosophy and attended the psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania for his PhD, graduating in 1967. His faculty advisor at Penn was Richard Solomon, a leading researcher in learning and motivation. While a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Seligman's animal research led him, along with Steve Maier and Bruce Overmier, to a discovery they called learned helplessness . This is considered an important discovery, as it identified a new kind of learning in which an organism recognizes there is no relationship between its behavior and desired outcomes, which can lead an organism to give up trying to achieve desired outcomes. Seligman noticed that this animal model of helplessness bore similarities to human depression, which led him to study helplessness and depression in humans. In his research, Seligman also discovered that when exposed to uncontrollability not ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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