Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Scott Gaynor

Second Advisor

Callum Smith

Third Advisor

Katarina Rotta


The purpose of the present study was to examine psychological influences on problem-solving following lab-induced learned helplessness. There are several related psychological constructs in the literature that appear relevant. These have been typically examined in isolation in various sub-fields within psychology. Determining which is most influential, and their unique and overlapping contributions, could provide important conceptual clarity and point to ways to streamline and guide targets of psychological intervention. The constructs of interest were: need for cognition, psychological flexibility, grit, learned helplessness (LH) attributional style, cognitive fusion, and the Big 5 personality trait of neuroticism. A within-subjects correlational research group design was used wherein all participants completed psychological inventories on key constructs and then engaged in two unexpectedly challenging problem-solving tasks. On the first task, participants received response-independent feedback that 60% of their answers were incorrect. The second task involved solving challenging compound remote associates (CRAT) problems where participants were expected to fail on the majority of items. The primary research questions were which variables predict task performance (persistence, changes in reaction time, rates of not responding) and reactivity to the tasks (changes to mood and thinking following the tasks). Psychological flexibility was found to predict a lack in persistence on the LH task. No variables significantly predicted reaction times on the CRAT. An LH attributional style was the strongest predictor of higher cognitive fusion (i.e., more negative thinking following the tasks meanwhile extroversion predicted a higher positive mood the best). Negative mood was best predicted by conscientiousness following the CRAT and by an LH attributional style following the LH task respectively.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Thesis Defense Presentation.pdf (585 kB)
Defense Presentation

Included in

Psychology Commons