Learned Optimism | By Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman is a common reference books Punset and José Antonio Marina. Eminent psychologist, has focused his career not in the study of those diseases or conditions that destroy the minds of many individuals, but in the study of the mind of those who, despite having a healthy mental state, can improve their lives, pursue a greater happiness, better understanding of themselves or feel fully realized.

It all started when after finishing his studies, he began his first experiments in the laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania, with Richard L. Solomon, a renowned theoretical learning which held that any behavior could be explained in key reward or punishment. The basic laboratory work focused on constraining the behavior of dogs by electric shocks preceded by a sharp sound. Subsequently, the dogs within drawers, one wall of which could easily be skipped by the animal was introduced. What is surprising, and what not reached Solomon explained, was the reason that one of the dogs, when I heard the sound of the horn, and instead of jumping out of the discharge (punishment-reward dynamics) lay on the She is moaning and wailing drawer waiting for the shock that was inevitable.


Seligman discoursed on this issue and made a possible explanation: Some dogs had come to the realization that, whatever they did, they had no control over the discharge, so they surrendered.They had developed a pattern of learned helplessness that prevented them from escaping when given the chance even if it was so obvious as to give a little jump.


To prove his theory he prepared an experiment in which a group of dogs after the warning sound received an electric shock which, however, could be avoided if pressed a wall with his nose. The second group of dogs received shock after the sound but could do nothing to prevent discharge. The last group would hear the sound but not receive the download.


When the dogs went to the drawer with the low wall, the results were mixed. The first group, those who had learned in his hands was the power control discharges, jumped immediately to escape the pain. So they did the third group dogs when they began to receive the first shock. However, the second group, the dogs had learned that nothing could do to avoid the pain of shock, they lay on the drawer assuming as inevitable destination was not. Seligman had shown that the feeling of impotence could be learned.


In this experiment followed many others that underpinned Seligman’s theory to the point of taking the leap and perform similar tests (less cruel, it must be said) with people. The result was identical and enabled correctly define the theory of learned helplessness. The conclusion we reached was that Seligman how we interpret (and in which we explain) what happens to us, determines how we deal with such events. There are three aspects that define these guidelines learned: generality, customization and scope.



1400078393 Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
Martin E. P. Seligman
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When one receives notice of a layoff can think, “I’ve never been lucky, I’m no good for working life and not easily find another job.” That is, their thinking is permanent (you will not find another job), universal (does not apply to work in general) and personal (he blames himself for what happened same).Another, however, you may think: “They did not need a professional like me right now,” implying a situational, specific and external thought.


Summarizing. Who tend to believe that a negative event can be explained by outside oneself and general causes have more ability to overcome and face the challenge better than one that offers an explanation which attaches itself the responsibility for what happened and considers as permanent, against what can not fight.


This intuition may seem natural and logical today, but in the sixties it was new. At the time, investigations were conducted to determine the conditions of behavior causes beyond the individual, more specifically, in the middle. It is already known, the society was the explanation for any deviation.Crime, violence, declining solidarity, all reflected the social environment and nothing was therefore the responsibility of the individual. In this context, the theory of Seligman, defender of the individual’s ability to overcome obstacles and take charge in many aspects of life, was misplaced.


Obtained scientific proof, Seligman study focused on the back of learned helplessness, optimism and explanatory guide was launched to compare their theory with reality in various fields. It began at the request of Metropolitan Life, an insurance company that invested large sums in the process of selecting their sales staff but watched a lot of them did not conclude its first year in business due to the heavy wear that entails insurance sales. Seligman proposed replacing the test Typical selection by others in which it was detected the most optimistic candidates, those that continued negative, bad answers and days without achieving a single sale, will fail to discourage so far as to make them believe not worth for the job. The results reinforced the theory of explanatory pattern. Selected vendors and had lower dropout rates and higher sales that selected by standard procedures.


Seligman collaborated with such diverse institutions as the Military Academy at West Point or the admissions department at the University of Pennsylvania in whose selection processes were integrated optimism tests designed to detect those who would remake best after adversities such demanding environments They would result in young people selected.



But not everything is academic rigor or insurance sales. Much more pleasant (but equally rigorous and rich in results) was his research on the influence of optimism in highly competitive sports. For two seasons, his team set out to collect and assess, according to his theory, all statements of the players and coaches of the teams in the league baseball and basketball sports published in newspapers. Thus, they concluded that those teams whose players blamed their defeats to specific circumstances and outside (“tonight the grass was too fast”) concluded the season over those other teams who interpreted the defeat as something personal and general (“lately play fatal “).


Sure we might think that those who earn more parties have reason to be more optimistic than those teams tend to lose their matches. That is, that optimism does not explain the good results but that good results could explain the optimism.


Maybe, but Seligman gave a new twist to his theory to show that not only served to explain the past but to go into the future. Let’s see. Applying their technique to the speeches of acceptance of the candidacy for president of the United States, his team was able to certar in most cases eventually which candidate would win the election. But since that has little merit, they applied to the task of predicting both the Republican Party and for the Democrat, which candidate would be victorious in the 1988 primary reference to the statements of each applicant. The success was total and the two winning candidates (Dukakis and Bush) were the most optimistic according to the scale used by Seligman.


Since the results of this work were published, the campaign leaders of the parties, decided to “play” with the theory and tried to force the acceptance speech of the bid, in particular the speech of Dukakis, yielding a score Scale Seligman disproportionately high relative to its standard pattern. As the winner forecast was based solely on this speech, Dukakis’s defeat and the “error” of the theory it can be easily justified. The lesson is that optimism can not be simulated if it serves a real internal explanatory pattern.



The book offers many more examples of this theory, as well as abundant reflections on the way in which parents (especially mothers) to their children their own explanatory model, how optimism affects the health of people or the way They face the disease, if more optimistic and better explanatory pattern that other religions or if more pessimistic and worst fitness and collective societies to face setbacks in history.


The issue of whether an unlimited optimism, a thought in which everything that happens to us can find explained by reasons beyond oneself and therefore encourage hedonism and the loss of a minimum sense of responsibility is desirable also arises. Seligman (which is not an overflowing optimistic) defends a restrained optimism balance dosed with realistic pessimism.


But the question that arises spontaneously after reading these chapters is whether it is possible to modify the Explanatory guideline and out of that conference threatens to crush the naysayers. The answer is yes. In fact, the promise is reflected in the title of the book itself: Learned Optimism . Are we, therefore, before another book aims to offer self-help guide to solve all our woes?


No, although its title might suggest it, the truth is that the book gain insight Seligman’s theory (the theory of many psychologists and educators who have made a similar journey in recent years) and therein lies its interest. It is true that four final chapters where it is put into practice the theory previously developed by the author using the example case studies are offered. But make no mistake.The author recognizes that it is precisely these chapters, full of “real” examples -the result of bringing together different-many details of cases is harder for him to write, those who pushed away from the desk.


They explain how to challenge negative thoughts and change the personalistic and universal thoughts with more circumstantial, how to deal with our way of thinking to create a healthier explanatory pattern. Perhaps for many prove the most instructive part and, above all, useful book, the real reason for reading. I can not judge its usefulness, but if attest that I have learned from this book deal about the way we think (as I think) and, especially, in the way I want my children to think. And with that I am satisfied.