Friday, March 28, 2014

Oddly Fascinating

So Alternet (via Salon) has an article on how "learned helplessness" might be a significant contributor to American's rise in depression.
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Forget about the whole "rise in depression" piece and focus, for a moment, on the "learned helplessness" piece.  So, in reading a tiny bit about this, it appears to be a state where in the participants "LEARN" they can execute no control over the outcome.
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Which is a debatable theory in education.  But the article takes it out of the education context and puts it into the day to day context.
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It highlights the infuriating voice call menus, where no matter what you do you can't effect the outcome.  The "wait" state that technology have desensitized us to.  The bureaucratic indifference that makes us all hate politicians.  The idiotic TSA roulette, where your outcome is entirely dependent on the mood of an authority you can't question.  The United Gate attendant who indifferently lies to your face.
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The author's point is that we have been subject to "learned helplessness" from big bad corporations who desire money about all else.  I question that premise.  Just like I question his idea that this is exploited by political parties to give someone for the Tea Party to hate.
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But I don't question the basic premise that technology often teaches us "learned helplessness".  The outcome you get isn't depend on the effort you put in, but a random lucky result. How many of us found out the iPhone did something really cool 4 years after we got our first one?  And only because some geek we don't know happened to spill it on a news site we never heard of.
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How many of us have had a problem with a travel related item (for me it's airplane tickets, but it could be any number of things).  You call back once or twice and - the one perfect time - someone helps you randomly.  It isn't because you were nicer, smarter or more patient.  Just pure dumb luck that you got a nice person.
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And the author also points out that helplessness is corrosive to our mental health.  I agree.
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Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

1 comment:

Conspiracy Theorist in Wisconsin said...

I'll go along with this. The conspiracy theorist in me will also go along with the argument supporting the Tea Party using this line of thinking to advance their agenda. I have to say, I see it being manifested in here in the Badger State. While not "proven" - certainly observable.