Falling into a state of learned helplessness-passive acceptance

Thankfully, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Human brains are not fixed; neuroscience research shows that they remain plastic well into adulthood.

Biases can lead people to overlook their limitations and be overconfident of their abilities. Even when people overcome such biases and actually want to improve, they can handicap themselves by doubting their ability to change.

Classic psychological research by Martin Seligman and his colleagues explained how animals and people can fall into a state of learned helplessness-passive acceptance and resignation that develops as a result of repeated exposure to negative events perceived as unavoidable.

Unconsciously, people often find themselves mimicking the emotions, behaviour, speech patterns, expressions, and moods of others without even realising that they are doing so. While role modelling is commonly associated with high-power leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Bill Gates, it isn’t limited to people in formal positions of authority. Everyone has the power to model roles, and groups of people may exert the most powerful influence of all. No wonder TV shows have been using canned laughter for decades; believing that other people find a show funny makes us more likely to find it funny too.



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