When bad things happen, we like to believe that we would do whatever necessary to change the situation. Research on what is known as learned helplessness has shown that when people feel like they have no control over what happens, they tend to simply give up and accept their fate.
Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.
Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.
While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings.
The concept of learned helplessness was discovered accidentally by psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven F. Maier. They had initially observed helpless behavior in dogs that were classically conditioned to expect an electrical shock after hearing a tone